There is a sense we all become children during the holidays. What’s more, it is always interesting to me to see how many families hold on to traditions almost religiously at holiday gatherings…the same decorations, gift opening styles, unique rituals like playing certain music, serving the same food, and attending church services. Sometimes the details get crazy: when we shop, how we shop, how we discover who wants what gifts, and how we plan gift exchanges. Whine or not, families come to anticipate these tranditions.
What is so important about these traditions?
Traditions can bring us stability, predictability and positive memories. They become threaded into our family’s fabric. They leave neurological imprints in our memory centers that bathe us in good kinds of enzymes that both calm and please. Traditions are some of the most positive family activities that we can have.
I know my children still love our Christmas traditions. They are now in their late 20’s and remain excited about Christmas Day festivities and food. They have great expectations about how we will decorate and celebrate each other. It is just a whole lot of fun for our family.
If you just are starting out with your family it is of great importance that you begin traditions that everyone can depend on and enjoy. It is a great time for relational activities that are healthy and connecting.
If you already have family traditions, take time to enhance them. As your family matures, be flexible. Allow input, but do your best to continue the family gatherings and rituals. It will be gratifying and add wonderful memories as you continue in your family life.
It is also important to share and reflect on past holidays. Discuss what happened, what was funny, who did the craziest things and who did the most meaningful things. Each memory is very much a part of who your family is and sharing it adds a sense of constancy and solidarity.
During these traditions, watch how your teenagers react.
Many teenagers embrace becoming independent (it is their job, after all) to the point of being potentially annoying to their parents. It is usually a very difficult phase of development for parents and families. Yet, often at Christmas teens will want the family to be together and have their traditions just because they are stable and predictable in a very unpredictable and changing world.
As much as it appears teens want to be independent, often we find even the most oppositional teenager clamoring to be with family and enjoying the activities of the holiday season.
The upcoming holidays are great time to form wonderful family traditions, too.
It is a great idea to think through your family traditions to see what will be most connecting and stabilizing for your children and other family members. If you don’t have many traditions then consider making some. Hold a family meeting and discuss what everyone would really enjoy. Traditions don’t need to cost a lot of money and they can be great fun even as you strategize about them.
I do hope everyone has a great holiday season and many joyous family memories. Creating and maintaining traditions can make a positive difference to family memories and gatherings.
Gerry Vassar, President/CEO, Lakeside Educational Network