Building family traditions that last and have personal meaning for family members is an important way to develop strong family relationships. Recalling your favorite family experiences usually leads to thinking of such times of family tradition as the weekly Sunday meal, family get-togethers at Thanksgiving or Christmas, vacations at a favorite spot, or reading stories together at bedtime. Family traditions vary widely and often change over time.
Dr. Sean Brotherson, NDSU Extension Family Science Specialist, author of the publication, Building Lasting Family Traditions, shares that family traditions provide families with:
A sense of regularity and order that families need, especially children. Bedtime rituals or a time to talk with a spouse each day become events to look forward to that are meaningful.
A time to connect emotionally and physically with other members of the family, sharing time, caring and conversation. Traditions provide a planned context for connection with others.
A sense of who belongs to the family, what is special about the family, and where one belongs in the family. Traditions allow families to form a unique family
identity that helps them to feel they belong in a special way.
A Way to Enact Values
Traditions allow families to demonstrate what they believe and hold dear. They provide families with an opportunity to make their values concrete and to express them regularly with one another.
Things to Consider
In today’s world, families tend to come in all shapes and sizes. The family
traditions that will work best for you may vary depending upon the type of family that you are currently living in. Single-parent families, blended families,
multi-generational families, families from different ethnic backgrounds, all of these family types may need to think creatively about what family traditions will work best for them in their specific circumstances. At times it may be necessary to move slowly in learning to respect and understand another’s family traditions, such as when encountering the traditions of someone with a differing cultural background than one’s own. A family may need to work on creating new, shared
family traditions that establish their own unique family identity, such as when a parent remarries and a blended family comes together. In any case, families can learn to respect and nurture the family traditions that can bind families together across a wide variety of family experiences.
Old or New Traditions? It is important to understand when a tradition is serving the family in a positive way, and when the family is simply serving the tradition. In other words, sometimes a little bit of change in family traditions is not a bad thing. Many families have old or established traditions that they would like to continue and maintain over time. It is important for them to creatively think about how to involve younger generations in the family in such traditions, and to find ways to teach the value or meaning of such traditions in the family circle. This can be accomplished through family meetings, sharing of ideas, or participatory activities.
Evaluate Your Family Traditions
Do we have enough traditions in our family?
Do our traditions serve us or do we serve them?
Are there family traditions that we would like to begin?
Are there family traditions that we would like to discard?
Are there family traditions that we would like to modify or adapt?
Are our family traditions shared among all family members?
Consider Meaningful Family Traditions
- What are family traditions that I’ve experienced that have been most meaningful to me that I would like to continue or experience again?
- What are family traditions that I think would be meaningful to myself and other
family members that I would like to begin?
Now that you have completed setting goals related to building specific family traditions, select two to three of the goals and pick a specific time
to first discuss each family tradition and then set a date to begin working on developing that family tradition. Be patient, as it takes time for traditions
to develop and mature, and also be flexible so that the tradition serves your family and you don’t serve the tradition
View this entire publication, Building Lasting Family Traditions by Dr. Sean Brotherson at https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/cff/family_science/documents/family-traditions/traditionsparticipant.pdf
The West Dakota Parent & Family Resource Center is a collaborative partnership between Dickinson Public Schools and NDSU Extension since 1997. For more information call 701-456-0007 or toll free at 1-877-264-1142.