* The Importance of Family Rituals

By Sarah Postlewaite, Courier & Press, March 17, 2017 –

It’s no secret that all families are busy.  Besides homework, many families have music or sports practices, performances, club meetings and games.  In most families, one or both parents work while the kids and the parents are involved in various activities.

Our days and years go by so fast we hardly have time to breathe.  When we look back at the week, sometimes it’s hard to remember if the whole family spent any quality time together.

I grew up in a large, busy family, but I do remember having lots of quality time with both my parents and siblings.  My parents placed importance on family rituals. These rituals really shaped my childhood and were so ingrained in me that I now try to make them central to my own family.

Family rituals are important to the health and well-being of today’s families trying to juggle the busy demands of work, home and social lives.  Family rituals are powerful organizers of family life that offer stability during times of stress and transition.

One of the more common rituals is family dinnertime, sharing a family meal together one or more nights a week with no phones, electronics or other distractions.  Bedtime is also a great time to start a ritual, especially with smaller children.  Parents and children can end the night reading books, telling stories or sharing one good thing that happened that day.

Another option is choosing a day of the week that is less busy for your family and making that a “family day/night.”  When the weather is nice our family takes a Sunday night walk together or discusses the upcoming week over a small family meeting.

Of course there are always holidays and birthdays built in throughout the year that can be celebrated and made into special events with little money spent.

Whatever you choose to do with your family, just make sure the rituals created are tailored to the needs, attitudes, personalities and limitations of your family.  Try to work within the framework of your “real” life as much as possible.  Creating something that is tailored to your family life will help these rituals stay consistent, enjoyable and lasting.

Family rituals also give children a sense of belonging and validation.  They promote a sense of identity in the child, which will later serve as a basis for adult development.

The importance of recurring family rituals, from the simple decision to enforce an attendance policy for evening meals to more complex family gatherings cannot be over emphasized.

If we look at the possibilities in ritualizing some of our current family experiences, we begin to see ourselves, our families and our time with them in a different light.  Through the use of rituals we can help ourselves find extra time with our family that we may be missing.

Family Traditions Create Lasting Bonds

Fireworks

By Lisa Cossey, MSW, Courier & Press, June 14, 2016 –

With the Fourth of July around the corner, it is nice to look forward to time with family and friends and participate in ongoing family traditions.

A family tradition is something that is recreated, year after year. Every July Fourth, my family hosts a party filled with food, games and fireworks.

Each year at Halloween, my husband’s family gathers and spends an evening going to haunted houses. Perhaps it is not a typical family tradition, but it is one their family looks forward to and has enjoyed for years. One of my good friends and her family observe the less frightful tradition of camping on Halloween weekend each year.

Another tradition in my own family that I look forward to is gathering in my mother’s kitchen to bake pies and other desserts for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. A good time is always had by all, and now that my own children are getting older, they are involved in the baking as well.

Families which share in their own traditions provide a sense of comfort and security, especially for the children involved. Children love routine and consistency, something a family tradition provides year after year. It also helps children manage any losses or changes in the year and gives them something to look forward to.

In addition, family traditions enhance family and personal well-being and can also add to the family identity. Strong family bonds are created and reinforced with traditions that are upheld and maintained.

As children grow and mature, traditions can also be altered to accommodate the family’s needs. For example, perhaps a family with young children has a tradition of singing Christmas carols around their Christmas tree. As the children age, the tradition could evolve into caroling around their neighborhood.

Family traditions don’t have to be formal, fancy or costly. They don’t even have to revolve around the holidays. You can share in a family tradition any day or time of the year.

If baking together for the holidays is not your favorite activity, perhaps your family would enjoy taking a walk every Christmas morning or exchanging “white elephant” gifts during your celebrations. Traditions are what you choose to make them.

Other ideas to create family traditions include:

  • Reading a book aloud, such as “The Night Before Christmas,” before opening Christmas gifts
  • Having a weekly or monthly family movie night
  • Holding a yearly family talent show
  • Creating crafts together
  • Making candy, baking or preparing meals together
  • Taking an annual vacation or family camping trip
  • Having your own family sporting tournament, with a traveling trophy to be awarded to the winning family each year

No matter what your family’s traditions are or what your family chooses to create, just having something for all family members to look forward to each year is important. Traditions help create warm, positive memories that can be recalled fondly and draw family members back to one another year after year.