In my previous post on family traditions, I talked about why family traditions are so important to incorporate into our lives. Simply, they’re the foundation of creating happy childhood memories.
After a lot of feedback and contacts, I decided to further elaborate on the topic. Hence, I set off to gather a compilation of favorite family traditions which could be used as inspiration for your own traditions. These ideas were based on among others my family’s traditions, 60+ Family tradition ideas by Brett & Kate McKay, Why family traditions matter by Mommypotamus and several other online resources.
First things first though. Life as we know it today has become overly materialistic and a lot of focus is placed on appearances and external opinions. That’s not a direction that I want to encourage. The basis for family traditions is that they make your family special to you, not anyone else. Family traditions aren’t about monetary value, they’re about something deeper, about creating unity, embracing bonds, and creating memories. They are also a fantastic means of teaching your children about values, life skills, expectations and respect.
Eliminate extra stress.
Parenthood is already overwhelming as is, so I strongly suggest you don’t make family traditions into an additional stress factor. Choose traditions that come naturally to you, that fit into your life situation. Your neighbor’s family traditions might include setting up thousands of Christmas decorations in mid-November and showcasing an extravagant light show for 8 weeks, while yours might be lighting a single candle on December 24th. Both traditions are just as beautiful and meaningful as you yourself choose for them to be.
A few words of warning before you set off on creating family traditions: It’s not a competition. Forget about what the rest of the world is doing, instead focus on your family, your children, traditions that you want to pass along. Some can be childish, others classier. It’s up to you, but trust me, if a tradition gets a smile on your child’s face, it’s worth it. For something to become a tradition, it should be repetitive. Look at your own resources, emphasis on your time-management and what kinds of traditions are feasible for your family. I.e. what kinds of activities can you engage in repeatedly on a daily, weekly, monthly or annual basis.
The following are ideas you could use as a base for creating your own family traditions!
Daily Connection Traditions
Daily Connection Traditions are the small things you do daily to encourage a feeling of belonging and reinforce family values.
A special greeting.
A special greeting can be anythings from a “secret” handshake, a hug and two kisses, saying something special and silly every time you meet. Combine it with nicknames and some team spirit to make it even more special for your kids.
Sharing a meal together as a family has been studied to have a lot of positive influence on children. It could be breakfast, lunch, dinner, whichever fits best with your family, but try to make it into a habit. Sitting down at the table together should be used as a moment to spend time together, share your day, genuinely connect. Make sure to avoid toys, newspapers, TV, or cellphones at the table and focus on your family instead.
Engage in an activity that your children enjoy.
Sing a song together or have a dance party before you head to bed! Make up your own song or dance routine together with the kids. Another fantastic way to connect is to make up your own stories based on the things your children like, and use your children as the main characters.
Reading to children and together with children is very important in so many ways. Children that have been read to a lot tend to have a vaster vocabulary and perform better in school than children who have not. It’s also a great way of spending time together.
Ask what the best part of the day was.
Perhaps incorporate it into a night-time routine, once everyone is in bed, ask them to share what made them happy today. Happy final thoughts in the evening lead to happy dreams..
A hug, sitting together side-by-side for a moment, drawing with your finger on your child’s back or stroking their hair are all gentle ways to connect. Spend a moment on physical contact no matter how old your child is.
Weekly Connection Traditions
Go out for a walk together.
Going outside together, for example taking a walk together has so many perks! It’s a great way to unwind, get some fresh air, talk about things and yet again, spend time together. If you have a dog, you could make this into a daily ritual too. If you have several children, take turns in going one-on-one with a parent and child to give some extra individual attention.
Secret notes and messages.
If you pack a lunch with to school for your child, consider adding a little personal note for example on Mondays or Fridays. Something encouraging to kickstart the week or end the school week with a smile! I don’t suggest doing this daily, because it may get boring in a while (and you may run out of things to say), but if being a daily poet is your thing – go for it!
Cozy up together to watch a movie, play some board games, etc. Let your children take turns in choosing a movie to watch, which game they want to play and prepare snacks together (not only candy – choose healthy stuff too!), make it something that everyone looks forward to all week.
Is your family into sports? You could watch a game on TV or go to a game together to cheer on your favorite team. You could also choose a sporty hobby that encourages mommy/daddy & me time. If you have several children, encourage them to come cheer for each other! Watching or participating in sports might not be something for the entire family, but you could still encourage everyone to participate for example by crafting cheer-posters together.
Pick an evening where you cook together! Provide everyone with specific (rotating) tasks and have a “head chef” each week. The head chef gets to choose what will be for dinner. If they choose to order-in pizza, that’s fine too, though encouraging cooking together can be a very fun (and healthy) lifestyle to adapt from early on.
Family time/weekly family meeting.
Book in one day of the week where no-one has any hobbies in the evening and everyone is present. Sort of like Hygge night, but this time avoid TV and board games, instead just be present. Discuss things that matter to your family, as an adult you could try to think about different values that you want to pass on and talk about. If there’s something special coming up soon, you could use this time to talk about it. Have you been through something rough, exciting, life changing lately? Perfect time to talk about it.
Special Weekend Breakfast.
Having a special Saturday or Sunday breakfast or brunch together is a way to celebrate the weekend. It could be at home or at a restaurant, a picnic in the park. If you’re staying home, prepare the breakfast together, bake croissants or bread rolls, prepare pancakes, omelets.. And yet again you could choose to take turns with different responsibilities; who’s in charge of setting the table, who gets to pick out the menu, etc.
Mommy/Daddy and me dates.
Now this is perhaps more a monthly family tradition than a weekly one. Individual attention for children is very important, regardless of whether they have siblings or not. Special dates together with a parent can be extremely meaningful. Take turns between parents and children and take one child at a time out on a Mommy/Daddy date. Go out for ice cream, shopping, head to the movies, etc. Engage with your child and do things together that are important for them.
Life Changes, Milestones, Birthdays and Special Events Traditions
Some life changes, milestones or special events can be family traditions that perhaps only occur once or a few times, but they still create memories and can become traditions that are passed down from one generation to the next. Birthdays, first day of school and annual holidays are obviously frequent traditions.
First and last day of school photos.
On the first and last day of every school year, take a photo of your kids. It’s a great way to see how much they’ve changed just during one school year, let alone when you compare pictures several years apart!
First and last day of school video interview.
On the morning of the first day of school, interview your child of their expectations and how they feel. You could also combine a pep-talk to the video interview. Repeat on the last day of school!
Backpacks seem to be a huge deal for kids! Even though a little wasteful to purchase a new backpack every year, it’s still a fun tradition to abide by. Go out shopping together and let your child choose their backpack for the year. Alternatively, it could be a new pencil case, lunchbox, etc. Something small yet special to celebrate the excitement of going back to/starting school.
Honor roll, special awards, successful report cards, exceeding expectations.
When your child performs well in school, celebrate, acknowledge and encourage their efforts! Performing well is individual and shouldn’t focus just on grades. Some kids struggle more than others, so rewarding effort is what counts! Rewards could be that you take them out for a special treat, buy them a small gift or flowers and have them pose for a picture.
A lot of families already have several quite typical family traditions for celebrating birthdays such as presents, cake, throwing a party.. Here are some more fun ideas you could incorporate into your family traditions for birthdays:
Create a set of questions that you ask your child every year on their birthday. They could be anything from favorite food, color, hobby, etc. to what they want to accomplish this year. Compile them together into a little booklet that you hand over on their 18th birthday!
If you’re a party planner and like to throw extravagant parties, theme parties are great! Sit together with your child [preferably several months in advance] and start planning the perfect party! Make sure to genuinely involve your child and remember that the party is for them, not for crafty momma or over-excited dad. If your child doesn’t want to have a huge party, you should respect that. It also works the other way though, you don’t need to go overboard, stick to your family values and what’s feasible – offering pony rides in the backyard is perhaps not possible for everyone.. Instead try to think of other alternatives together that you can do and again, remember, it’s the thought that counts, not the monetary value.
This could be done on other occasions too but measuring height against a door post combined with a birthday is a fun way for kids to really see how much they’ve grown over a year.
New Privilege/Responsibility Cards.
This is a great way to remind and teach your child that with age also come new privileges and responsibilities. Alongside to birthday presents, give your child two envelopes; one labeled, “New Privilege” and the other, “New Responsibility.” Inside will be an age appropriate privilege and responsibility for each year.
Birthday Time Capsule.
Create a time capsule on a certain birthday, for example your child’s 8th birthday and give it to them ten years later. You could add pictures, a note which describes what things are important to them at the time, perhaps even some little memories. (Don’t make it too big, as you’ll have to store it for ten years out of sight! ;))
The holidays are usually full of all kinds of traditions, both formal and family specific. When you’re planning family traditions of your own, again, focus on the things that matter to your family. And remember, it’s not the material value of your traditions, but the magical moments and memories created that count!
Every country, culture and religion have their own holidays that are meaningful. Hence, I won’t provide a list of ideas for family holiday traditions, as I wouldn’t be able to cover all areas. The only thing I can genuinely say for these traditions is:
Make the holidays special.
Whatever the holiday or occasion, make it special. Spend time together as a family, enjoy each other’s company. Think about the things that mattered to you as a child, that created happy memories for you, and pass those traditions on.
Time spent together is a lot more important than any number of physical gifts.
Do you have any other ideas for creating great family traditions?
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