There is an endless list of traditions: religious traditions, new year's traditions, birthday traditions, wedding traditions, Thanksgiving traditions, the list goes on and on. Traditions essentially serve to bring family members together by creating a family culture and strengthening family ties.
Establishing family traditions between immediate family members can help give children a sense of identity. In the book, "The Joy of Family Traditions," Jennifer Thomson argues that these types of traditions lower stress. Moreover, children who participate in family traditions are less likely to turn to drug abuse.
Other studies have come to similar findings:
According to one study, children in families with regular traditions have fewer behavioral issues than those in families where traditions are uncommon.
A second study found that families where traditions were common found it easier to cope when times were tough.
Lastly, a third study found that alcoholic parents were less likely to transmit their alcoholism to their children if the family maintained dinner time and holiday ritual practices.
1 | A “thankful day” ritual. There are many ways in which you can establish a gratitude tradition. One way is by selecting a specific time (for example, before meals) and having every family member say one thing s/he is grateful for. Another way to teach your kids to express gratitude and help you connect as a family is to establish a “thankful day” ritual. For example, you can make every Monday “Thankful Monday day” and ask everyone to write down what they’re thankful for, then hang it where everyone can see it for the entire week.
2 | Minimalism Ritual. Most families acquire too much stuff over the course of a year. Starting a minimalist day – for example, the first day of each month or the first day of every year – on which each family member donates the stuff they no longer need is a great idea to reduce the clutter. Have a contest and see who can give away the most stuff.
3 | Morning Rituals. A hug, a kiss, snuggling, a special handshake, specific words you always say. Don’t focus on length, the key is being consistent.
4 | Bedtime Ritual. There are many bedtime rituals to choose from. One of my favorite rituals is from Jane Nelsen, the founder of positive discipline. As you’re tucking your children into bed, ask them about their “saddest” and their “happiest” moments during the day, then share the same information. Choose any other variation that is more appropriate for your family situation. When did you laugh? When were you sad? When were you shocked?
5 | International Night. Establishing an “International Night” (or an “International Day”) tradition once a month is an awesome way to teach your children about other cultures and other people. It’s also a great way to make them participate as they need to find information about the country you’re celebrating: what do they eat, how do they dress, where is the country located, what’s the capital city, etc.
6 | One Meal Theme for Each Day of the Week. I got this idea from the book, "Simplicity Parenting." Basically, you choose one meal (pasta, rice, steak, pizza) and stick to it for each day of the week. According to the book’s authors, having a certain meal on a certain night each week makes meal planning easier and also provides children with roots – Monday is pasta night, Tuesday is rice night, Wednesday is pizza night, etc.
7 | Music Ritual. A music ritual can teach your kids about music from around the world and can also provide you with an awesome opportunity to learn about musicians you didn’t know about. You can borrow music from groups and singers you don’t know about from your local library and discover them together as a family.
8 | A Read-aloud Tradition for the Whole Family. Reading together as a family (rather than reading separately to each of your kids) is a great way to bond.
9 | Family Meeting. Having family meetings (for example, at the start of the year) is an excellent way for families to connect. You can talk about what everyone expects in the new year, talk to your kids about the chores they’re expected to do in the new year, how much allowance they’ll have if they’re entitled to allowance, etc. It’s also an opportunity for families to practice the art of family negotiation. Print out the “family agreement” and having everyone sign to “make it formal.”
10 | Weekend Breakfast Traditions. Every Saturday or Sunday morning, do something different for breakfast – brunch, breakfast picnic, pancakes, etc.