Jul 03 2017

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Family traditions—a smart parenting choice

Family traditions—a smart parenting choice

“Do you know what happens this week?” I smiled ready to surprise my daughter, “Fourth of July.”

“Are we going to go to the baseball game and watch fireworks? That’s what we do…” My daughter reminded me of our tradition.

Family traditions catch me by surprise at times. We do something together as a family, and boom, it’s a tradition. Holidays are perfect for making traditions. While accidental traditions a good, intentional family traditions are better. Either way, including tradition into family life is a smart parenting choice. Why? Because family traditions bring us together to remind us who we are, what’s important, and, no matter what, we’re a family.

At the Baseball GameAt the baseball game

When my youngest daughter, Babycakes, was four, we went to a local baseball game for Independence Day. I wasn’t sure how she would do for a whole baseball game. How much actual baseball watching can a 4-year-old girl enjoy? Especially a girl who wasn’t used to going to games regularly.

FireworksShe sat on my lap for most of the time. I tried to tell her about the game and encouraged her to participate by cheering for the team. She seemed to enjoy herself and couldn’t wait for the fireworks after the game. This excitement only increased as the sun began its descent and became too much for her. She started a 1 1/2 minute loop of asking if the game was over and if the fireworks were going to start soon. Maybe that’s an exaggeration, but I was feeling it after the fifth or sixth time. Four year olds can get locked into a thought. Even so, her positive attitude impressed me—and was better than a “When can we go home” whine.

The next day, I asked her what she liked about the game. She answered without hesitation. “Charge! Fireworks. Everybody clap your hands.” That about sums up a baseball game followed by fireworks.

And our Fourth of July family tradition began.

Family Traditions: daily, weekly, and annually

Many families have regular traditions (even if they don’t recognize it as a tradition). Traditions create togetherness. Shared memories become part of the family culture. Here are some examples:

Annual traditions

  • Fourth of July — We go to the ballgame and fireworks display. Some people grill and have a gathering of friends. Many go to see fireworks.
  • Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years — These holidays lend themselves to family traditions. With each holiday, comes an opportunity to connect as a family as well as reinforce family values.
  • Birthdays — I overheard my child describing what we do for birthdays. Until I heard her description, I didn’t realize how we “do” birthdays. We give our children lots of say when it comes to how we celebrate. We don’t have to have cake, but we still like to light a candle and sing “Happy Birthday.”
  • Other traditions — Family vacations and outings can become traditions.

Weekly traditions

  • Church on Sunday — That’s our tradition. It’s part of the rhythm of our week. Youth group and Small Group are part of our regular habit during the school year.
  • Pizza on Friday — When we miss a Friday night without pizza, Friday doesn’t feel quite like Friday.
  • Library or zoo — At various times, we’ve made a trip to the library or zoo part of our weekly habit.

Daily traditions

  • Bedtime routine — Reading a book and prayer has been part of bedtime for my children, but less so as they get older and put themselves to bed. Ba Ba Little Sheep was a big part of the before sleep routine for a long time.
  • 5 minute hug — I kept this tradition with my children for a few years. Even though we don’t have it as a regular practice, “5” (as we call it) communicates well as “let’s spend a little us time together.”
  • After dinner walk — This tradition has come and gone throughout the years. It’s not simply about being healthy. It’s together time.
  • Read-alouds — Reading a good book together is another great habit. Some of my favorite books were shared as a family read-aloud.

Not all traditions have to be locked in stone forever. Some traditions fit perfectly for a time, and then change. Others stick year after year. But whatever you choose to do as a family together, tradition is a smart parenting choice, one that you can treasure throughout the years.

What are your favorite family traditions?

Do you have a favorite family tradition? Was it something you planned ahead of time? Has it changed over the years? One of my favorite family traditions is writing Christmas letters to each other and putting it in our stockings. Without that, Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas. That’s tradition.

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