A Special Education professional, behavior coach, writer, freelancer and most importantly a mother making life simple and fab as possible.
Right before the holiday, my daughter asked me what traditions were. I thought it was a lesson she had in school. But, it turned out; it was just the buzz word of the season. She has been hearing and reading it everywhere.
I started with a very simple ritual we have developed since we came in this town. Every Sunday, after celebrating the Eucharist, my daughter and I would come to this cart of popcorn. We would buy at least a pack (yes, it isn’t in a tub). We would eat it as we have our small mommy-daughter chat. Often, she also bought pack to bring home to her Lolo (Zǔfù/abuelo/grandfather). She smiled, saying; “Something we always do on a regular bais.”
Then, I asked her to remember a thing we used to do before we came here. I said it was an “interrupted tradition” that we have not done for a while. I asked her to remember how we would celebrate the Chinese New Year. We would have a small table with specific set of food. We also had “tikoy” or Nian gao. This is sticky sweet snack usually served on this time of the year. It was believed to be an offering to the Kitchen God of the Chinese people. On that holiday, we also plant a few vegetable for future kitchen use as our gift to the Kitchen God. She again beamed and said; “something we do on a celebration”.
Well…Traditions, as we mostly know, are the stories, beliefs, customs and routines that were passed on to us from older generations. They have been passed down, in the hope of keeping it alive until the next coming generations. Research shows us that routines and traditions are part of healthy families. These give security to young people, our children. These traditions help fill the children’s need to belong. Being a part of the special things our family does, helps our children have that sense of belonging providing them a sense of continuity and routine that they can depend on year after year. Such activities help promote healthy relationships between the generations when they are enjoyed and expected by everyone. Children remember the special experiences of family traditions more than toys and gifts. In fact, keeping traditions teach our children what things and practice our families’ value. Traditions help to bind us together as a family. And although not all of us have that perfect family relationship, family traditions are so important and should be continued on from generation to generation as these create a binding force for most.
We have all just been through some festivities over the last weeks. But traditions are not just these grand yearly festivities; they can range from very big to very small events. And what truly matters is the memories we make from these.
As our families change and it does. In fact, mine is in a constant swirl of changes. Traditions and creation of traditions are vital.
Identity and Belonging
Traditions and rituals often tell a story about a family. They serve as reminders of events that have shaped your family and your children’s lives. It helps create a personal identity for the child; something he/she can relate himself or herself too.
Also, as it often bespeaks of the family history, it shows our children that they are part of something bigger. It tells them that they are not alone, but rather, a part of a greater whole. Psychology has found that children who have an intimate knowledge of their family’s history are typically more well-adjusted and self-confident than children who don’t. There’s something about understanding your past and knowing you belong to something bigger that inspire confidence to children.
These moments spent together with predictable routines on special days help the children develop a positive sense of belonging in our family. When we intentionally and mindfully spend time together as a family, we send out a message to our kids that they are special, important valued, and loved. They are part of our family. Our family will not be complete without them.
Cultural and Religious Heritage
Many family traditions have been passed down generations after generations. Continuing them in your own family is a great way to teach your children about your family’s culture and religiosity. In many ways, these add to our children’s personal identity.
If your family is in any way like mine, we have not much of “family traditions”. This does not mean, I cannot create traditions for me and my child. Tons of inspiration can be derived from culture and religion.
Through the passage of time, rituals - whether religious or secular has been used to impart and reinforce values. I believe the same goes with family traditions. Daily family prayer, observance of Sundays and holy days show our children the importance of faith. It is reinforced. Regular family dinners or activities with the family tell our children that centrality of familial and solidarity is special. When we spend time for nightly bedtime stories, the value of education, reading, and life-long learning is dinned.
Strong Family Ties through Generations
Traditions are good milieu of providing the rare chance for face-to-face interactions amongst families. Traditions provide family members a chance to get to know and trust each other more intimately. Sharing moments together create a bond that comes from feeling that one is part of something special. In addition, these often give younger generation a time spent with the older ones. Family researchers have found that children who have a high level of grandparent involvement have fewer emotional and behavioural problems. In fact, high grandparent involvement is also correlated with lower maternal stress and higher involvement from dad, on most occasions. Researchers have also consistently found that families that engage in frequent traditions report stronger connection and unity than families that haven’t established rituals together.
Circle of Life
The Lion King has a very special thing on pinning this down. My daughter has gained appreciation of it through the movie. But greater appreciation and understanding comes into play as family generations move in their life cycles. The circular conception of time and a desire to follow the natural rhythm of the days and the seasons is embedded deep within us. Our world and universe are composed of cycles -death and rebirth, sunset and sunrise. Traditions help concretize how life moves in cyclic patterns of ever changing and evolving moments that children will appreciate.
That happy moment of looking forward to something special is always elemental to everyone. There is a rush of happy hormones and keeps us positive. Traditions are truly special moments that we look forward to. My daughter looks forward to popcorns and park benches after Sunday Eucharistic celebrations. She delights in that feeling of bathing under the evening skies as town folks walk around her. It is an ordinary activity, but there is happy anticipation for those.
Positive childhood memories can help our children live to be a happier and more generous adult. Recent research has shown that reflecting fondly on one’s past actually provides a myriad of positive benefits including counteracting loneliness, boosting generosity towards strangers, and staving off anxiety. This is in contrast to the bygone belief that nostalgia is a sign of depression,
Family traditions allow us to be intentional with how we utilize our time together with our children. It pushes us to make the effort to spend time each day, week, month and traditional activity together. These intentional choices are important. Our children will grow fast before our eyes. They are and will only be children once, traditions are seeds planted through our intentional effort. They tell our children what we are made of. We tell them what they are made of. More importantly, we tell them, what they can be.
Without a doubt family traditions are important. They have all played a big part in our own childhood. They helped shaped and form who we are now. Moving into parenthood, it has been such a fun process to create new traditions with my girl. There is always room to create new ones together. Altogether, there are and will be plenty of traditions to make the ordinary days extraordinary.
© 2018 Christine Garay