Family and cultural traditions can have a magical way of connecting our lives and generations. Have you ever prepared one of your grandmother’s holiday recipes with your kids, for example, or played her favorite game with them? Did you find yourself sharing stories about her and parts of her personality you see shining through in them?
Here are 3 ways you can use traditions—new or old—to reinforce the strengths of your family’s meaning systems and your relationships with your children.
- Share memories.
Tell a story about a grandparent, aunt, neighbor, or someone else who you used to see during the holidays. Talk about that person’s qualities and what you, as a child, thought of them. Were they funny? What kind of stories did they tell? Did you learn anything from being with them? How did it affect you? When you talk about your own experiences as a child, you can open up a lot of insight for your kids about who you are, and their own inner workings.
- Make something.
It could be a new idea you saw on Pinterest, or something you’ve made for decades. Get your kids involved by telling them the story of what it means to you. Depending on your child’s age, you can break down the steps so they can contribute. (For example, toddlers can stir with a spoon with your help, while a 5-year-old might even try pouring the vanilla extract!) Talk out loud from step to step (like “hmmm—ok, what’s next?”) so they can chime in and feel like a helper. It doesn’t need to be perfect: the back-and-forth act of building something together matters most. Sidebar – My fourteen-year-old son still loves to bake with me. I hope this will always be so, but for now I’ll soak up all the time in the kitchen together that I can get!
- Fill your calendar with more than gift-getting.
Kids can get hyper-focused on their wish lists and gift exchange. If you loved doing things around the holidays as a child—like ice skating or getting out in nature, put it on the calendar and help your child look forward to it year after year. This type of visual reminder will give them a sense of predictability and security that helps kids thrive.
Remember, this is also a time for deciding which traditions didn’t have meaning for you, and maybe felt full of guilty obligation! Take time to think about it, reflect on who you loved and what you did with them as a kid and carry it on.
Director of Strategic & Community Initiatives