Susan C. Stone's Practical Parenting Blog dotcom

The Importance of Traditions

Posted on: March 26, 2012


With Easter and Passover around the corner, it seems like a good time to talk about the importance of tradition to children and to family life.  If you ask an adult – or yourself – what positive memories you have from childhood, the answer will often be about things that the family did together on a regular basis – RITUALS and TRADITIONS. These might be ways of celebrating birthdays, vacations, the specific rituals followed on a holiday, Sunday dinners and much more. There are several reasons people remember traditions and rituals as such an important and memorable part of their childhood:

1. Children find security and comfort in repetition. It gives them something to count on in otherwise unpredictable world ( that’s why we’ve all read Good Night Moon hundreds and hundreds of times!). Your traditions give children touchstones that the family returns to despite the continuing changes in your child’s physical, social, emotional and cognitive world. Recreating a family activity over and over gives life a rhythm and markers on which children can rely. This creates a sense of stability.

2. A very basic need of children  – and, indeed, even adults – is a sense of belonging. Doing things as a family, that are unique to your family, builds this sense in children. Children need the sense of security that no matter what issues they have to confront in the world, they have a family to which to turn.

3. Rituals and traditions are an important  way of passing culture and values to the next generation. When parents do this, they often experience the richness of repeating their family’s history. Realistically, there are parents who would rather forget how their parents did things! In this case, establishing new traditions with your own children is a way to break a best-forgotten chain and write your own family history.

4. Family traditions and rituals are important in helping  children with the task of building an identity. They  help create for your child a sense of who they are and who their  family is. They become able to say, “We are a family that…”.  They also experience the roles and responsibilities of family members and are given their own role in that mosaic. This inclusion helps to establish their identity and a sense of purpose or usefulness in the family.

5. Traditions also bind children to you and to the family. Even during the adolescent years when their task is to establish their independence and claim in individual identity, children crave the traditions they have grown up with. The same teen who doesn’t want to be seen in public with you will all of a sudden demand that “traditional” foods you prepare for holidays or expect that grandpa will tell his story about celebrating the holiday when he was a child. It ‘s been demonstrated that teens who are connected to their families are less likely to engage in dangerous behaviors.

6. Don’t think that you have to create elaborate celebrations, birthday parties, outings or vacations in order to have traditions. This misses the point entirely! The activity you select to make a tradition isn’t important – choose what  you value and like:

  •  It can be a family dinner every Friday or Sunday night.
  •  You can choose to ride bikes together every weekend.
  • It can be going to the mountains every summer or planting a garden in the spring.
  • Have a game or movie night with popcorn or pizza
  • Have a traditional way that you celebrate the particular achievements of anyone in the family
  • Donate your time or items to needy families every Thanksgiving
  • Have family dinners as often as possible where you take turns sharing something from your day and receive attention and support from the family
  • Establish a special family tradition for saying good night or goodbye which your children can help to devise

Clearly, I could go on and on! What’s important is that through RITUAL and TRADITION you and your children will reap the benefits of stability, security and closeness to the family.

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