The Importance of Family Traditions

December 7, 2016

Family Tradition

As we move into the thick of the holiday season, many families will take part in religious, cultural and community traditions associated with this time of year. What do our children learn from these traditions, and why are they important?

A tradition is an activity that is repeated again and again at a particular time and for a particular purpose. For example, serving turkey at Thanksgiving is a common American tradition. Cultural traditions are a way of transmitting shared values and goals to the next generation, contributing to the development of both a collective identity and an individual sense of self. Traditions also promote a sense of community, helping children and families feel connected to others. PsychAlive notes that following familial, cultural or religious traditions promotes the development of empathy, leading to more engaged citizenship.

Traditions developed within individual families, such as how gifts are given or what foods are served to celebrate special occasions, allow for the development of special memories. They help children feel a sense of stability and continuity, allowing them to feel anchored within the family unit. They can also help children maintain a sense of hope and optimism at difficult times as they anticipate the events that have brought them joy and closeness in the past.

Traditions serve many important roles for individuals, families, communities and cultural groups. Here’s a few ways to start traditions in your family!

  • Identify the value that you want to promote or the practice that you want to incorporate into your family and then personalize it. If you want to focus on gratitude, start a tradition of sharing the things each family member is most grateful for at a special dinner during the holiday season. To focus on generosity or selflessness, volunteer as a family or sponsor a needy family.
  • Look at your own family history to discover what cultures are represented. Revive a tradition associated with the culture of a grandparent or great-grandparent that may no longer be celebrated. Help your children connect with a new component of their unique heritage.
  • As families grow and change, let traditions adjust accordingly. Some activities might work well for very young children, while others are more appropriate for older children. Forcing a tradition that no longer fits can cause the event to lose its magic.
  • Involve your children and their interests in the creation of new traditions. A family of musicians might adopt caroling as a tradition, while a family that enjoys being out in nature might create a tradition that involves outdoor activities.

This article was written for the December 2016 edition of Parent Source.