Our Families, Our Traditions
By Raymond Shipley
Tradition has always been a mainstay in my family life. Growing up it was simply taken for granted that Christmas Eve and Easter would be spent with my extended family, with Santa Claus always making an appearance for the children, and the yearly softball (and later volley ball) game taking center stage.
Now, as a husband and father, we have expanded on and created new traditions. In addition to Christmas Eve with my mother's family we now choose a date before Christmas to invite family to our home to partake in games and gifts. Weekly traditions have also been added, including Family Game Night, Wild Wednesdays, Movie Night and Sunday Family Breakfast. Keeping the family united and together is of the utmost importance in our lives, and it has been shown creating and maintaining such traditions is ultimately beneficial to the family, individual and society.
Most families have traditions that are handed down through the generations that include holiday get-togethers, and those that center around major life events such as weddings or funerals. Many families also enjoy regular vacations and reunions. There are multi-generational traditions and those created and maintained by individual families, as well as the daily and weekly traditions that keep the family together. As Michael J. Fox said, "family is not an important thing. It's everything."
"(Family meals are) a rich context in which to observe patterns of communication, problem solving, behavioral expectations, and role negotiations," says Gregory Fritz, MD. "For children, the most important traditions and rituals are family-based. The way a family celebrates holidays, birthdays, or developmental milestones; the family stories or jokes that are told and retold; memorabilia such as favorite ornaments, treasured photographs or handmade articles; the foods, like grandma's cookies or Aunt Myrna's potato latkes, where the preparation and eating link generations - all provide an essential continuity, consistency and coherence to children's lives."
When children become adolescents many things change. The amount of time spent away from the family increases, and influences other than the family are a result. During this time family rituals can provide opportunities for adolescents to renegotiate roles within the family. Moreover, young adults flourish when they feel connected to, but not constrained by, the family. According to Susan Dickstein, PhD current research "highlight(s) that the experience (or perception) of belonging to the family or being satisfied with family inclusion - not simply status as a family member - is an important factor associated with the (likely bidirectional) impact of family routines and rituals on individual development and well-being."
Participating in family traditions and rituals strengthens family connections, creates a sense of belonging and history and even reduces family conflict. Whether they be individual or multi-generational, good traditions are built on the principle of inclusion. Family comes first, and gifting our children with such valuable life lessons is not, nor should be, optional.