By Laura Montané Bailey | How family traditions help to build a child’s sense of self and feeling of belonging |
Whether you have grandchildren living with you or not, creating family traditions that include them are no doubt important to you. Traditions are how we pass on family values and stories, and they are the bonding experiences that tell us we belong to each other.
As you think about the traditions you want to develop for your current family grouping, keep in mind the following:
- Interests and abilities of each family member
- What is available in your area
- Seasons, holidays, and special occasions
- Keeping it affordable and age-appropriate
- Including other relatives, families, and friends
Children’s brains are wired and their identities are developed by the relationships and experiences they have. Purposefully plan ways to help your grandchildren carry on your legacy of positive values and to instill in them the identity of belonging to your family.
Here are some ideas for creating family traditions with low-cost activities that are fun and may include teaching opportunities.
Have formal dinners where everyone dresses up. Use this event to teach manners so that when proms, weddings, or other special events roll around, your kids will have more confidence about what to do in those settings. If you don’t know formal table settings and manners, look it up online together or go to the library and get a book.
Have a monthly family meeting. This is a great time to discuss schedules, plan, resolve problems, and recognize accomplishments. Make sure everyone has an opportunity to share their ideas. Include special refreshments and end with board games.
Do faith-based activities. Go to church or worship together. Even families who are not “religious” can find ways to pass on spiritual values, such as praying or meditating, reading books, and doing community service together.
Enjoy the great outdoors. Roast hot dogs and s’mores at the beach, the park, or your back yard. Take walks, play catch, press flowers, make mud pies, plant and tend a garden.
Take family vacations and “staycations.” Visit relatives and historic landmarks, go camping, take road or train trips, explore nature and other cultures.
Laura Montané Bailey, MS/LMFT, is a family therapist who has worked extensively with children in foster care, which inspired her to write the book Courageous Love for grandparents raising their grandchildren.