Discover some new family traditions to start both inside your home and out, all year long. I’m sharing a few ways to create a strong sense of connection with your nuclear family, along with some reasons why tradition is so strong and powerful in families all around the world.
Family traditions have been around for ages and ages. Every culture in the world embraces tradition in a myriad of ways. If you’re a full-fledged adult, you probably know a thing or two about traditions. Your parents probably expect you to maintain the traditions they started decades ago. And maybe now you’re ready to create your own traditions for your family. Or perhaps you are now the grandparent, and you’re stomping your feet and carrying on about your kids because now they have a family of their own, outside of you, and can’t always make it to some of your special events that have become tradition over the years…
If any of these are you, read on as I discuss some fun ideas and touch on the importance of family traditions. (Plus some perspective for older adults who want to learn the art of respectfully embracing new traditions as old ones begin to die out.)
Without further ado, let’s get into our topic for today: starting new family traditions.
Why do people start new family traditions?
The reason people start new family traditions is because they crave a sense of connection with their innermost family members. New parents want their young children to feel included and to create fun memories they can expect year in and year out. (Or week in and week out.) They want to do what their parents did (or didn’t do) for their children now.
However, once we extend out from the parent-child nuclear family and older adults are included, families may decide to partake in old traditions, too. They may want to make grandma feel respected and loved, continuing on with her traditions she’s carried on throughout her life. For some families, it’s both fun and easy to just go along with the traditions started by older generations years and years ago.
Regardless of the size of your family, the complexities of relationships, or the distance between one another, family traditions are important. They bring stability and connectedness. They can be the glue that holds families together, even if just for a few short hours.
It can feel really special to both create and uphold family traditions. There is no doubt about that.
That being said, you are under no obligation to create 100 new family traditions to keep up with. That would be exhausting. You don’t have to craft 50 handmade sweaters to hand out to the homeless each Christmas, spend 3 days straight marking off traditions from to-do lists each season of the year, or shell out thousands on a Disney trip every single year to feel like a decent person or parent.
My point: Not every tradition is a grand event, costly, or extravagant.
Don’t worry about what every other family on the block is doing. Do what’s important to you and your family. Family values come first.
What family traditions should and shouldn’t be
Traditions should be enjoyable. Whether it’s pleasure gained from contributing to the community or just plain old silly and joyful, do it. Really experience it to the fullest. Let loose a little bit and forget your worries while you’re creating these memories with your family. They’ll remember them for a long time.
Traditions shouldn’t feel forced. Family members should want to actually partake in them, not be forced for the sake of someone else’s pleasure. If people no longer enjoy a certain tradition, try switching it up.
Traditions can change. Try a new twist on an old family tradition. Is something outdated or too predictable? We’ve all been there. Once you’ve done something a million times, it’s just not the same anymore. Reliving the same exact experience over and over, although comforting for those with anxiety, can become a boring task. Shake it up with something new. If your family usually does big Sunday night dinners, try Saturday morning brunches for a while to change things up a bit. More than anything, time spent together is the most important part. Don’t stress about the same rigid details all the time. People love variety.
If a family tradition just isn’t working anymore, don’t be afraid to try something new. That’s what this entire post is really about. Do yourself a favor and let go of the guilt associated with retiring old traditions. The truth is, if a tradition isn’t working anymore for one family member, it’s probably not working for others either. Embrace change.
New Family Traditions To Try This Year
Start a weekly dinner rotation
Yes, it can be as simple as this. Creating a routine for dinner at the table each night with everyone can be really important for children and teens. Plan to have certain meals on certain days of the week, Monday – Friday, when everyone has tighter schedules and may be more tense. Having this time together can create some consistency in a hectic, work- and school-filled week.
Here’s a quick example:
- Mondays – Breakfast
- Tuesdays – Sandwiches/Wraps
- Wednesdays- Mexican
- Thursdays – Asian
- Fridays – Casserole
You can alter this to fit the meals your family enjoys most and keep them as specific as you want. Maybe instead of labeling Wednesday night with Italian, “Pizza” works better because that’s the only Italian food the kids will eat anyway.
However, the luxury of keeping these labels less specific is that although it creates a consistent schedule it also allows for flexibility. Breakfast could mean pancakes, waffles, french toast, or breakfast burritos. There’s still an element of spontaneity.
If weekdays are entirely too hectic to make dinner at all, you may need to alter this. Instead designate a weekend morning or evening just for a special family meal for you, your partner, and the kids. They may just look forward to this all week long. It may even be fun to have everyone join in on the cooking.
Begin a craft tradition
If you’re at all crafty, you’ll probably love the idea of crafting ornaments, decorating cookies, or designing cards for fun. Children are creative by nature and like to be included in activities like this. Set aside time once a month to take part in a task like this as a family and listen to music and chat as you make new pieces of art.
My only advice here: Don’t try to control how they play and craft. Let them explore on their own. It’s okay to supervise, guide, and model how to do something for them. But don’t hover or try to control how their project looks. It’s for fun. Creativity is not about control, it’s quite the opposite.
Add in holiday fun
The holidays are great because they always seem to entail some sort of tradition. It could mean having a BBQ on the Fourth of July or driving around ritzy neighborhoods during the Christmas season to look at lights or it could mean the kids and Dad planning a fun day for Mom on Mother’s Day every year. Whatever it is, cater it to your family.
Begin a tradition in the community
There is nothing like teaching kids about helping the community they live in. Volunteer work is rewarding, teaches hard work, and builds confidence. It can feel really special to set aside a day each year to volunteer at a local soup kitchen, nursing home, or at a local library.
Spend some time in the great outdoors
One thing my husband and I really want to instill in our children is a love for the outdoors. We love to visit state and national parks, exploring the trails and viewing wildlife from a distance. We’ve done this during practically every season of the year and enjoy exploring all the states around us. We hope to hit all the national parks in the United States eventually. There is just so much simple beauty and adventure in exploring the great outdoors. On average, we visit one national park a year and we plan on keeping this tradition going once we have kids.
Even if you aren’t into hiking or camping, try involving your family in more outdoor activities like annual festivals in your town or nearby cities. Something as simple as this can be a fun way to get some fresh air and sunshine.
Try something new once a month with each other
I try to keep a running list of things we haven’t done but want to try eventually for date ideas. We don’t have children yet, but this is a great idea for those with kids, too. It ensures that you’ll always have a new idea for a boring afternoon. Reserve a day to do this once a month or once a season and let your partner or children pick which fun outing you’ll try this time.
Read bedtime stories together
This is for small children in particular. Study after study has shown the benefits of reading starting from a young age. If you want ravenous readers, it’s best to get them into this nightly ritual when they’re young. You’ll need to choose age appropriate books and may need to practice your character impersonations, but children are pretty forgiving. A good attitude and a simple library card are all you really need to make this happen.
Host a movie night
Start a tradition of having a family movie night every Saturday evening with everyone in the home. It is so much more affordable and private when you can have a movie night in. Agree on a movie the night before so you don’t waste the evening trying to choose. Grab snacks at the grocery store and pile up the pillows and blankets on the floor for some cozy relaxation and fun. Some weeks you can even switch it up and head to the movie theater.
Spending time going on daily walks in your neighborhood or local park can be an easy way to stay active and catch up. One thing I personally love about walks is that it’s so easy to open up about stuff when you’re casually strolling alongside one another versus facing someone. This can be a great way to stay connected to older kids. Furthermore, young children love to be outside. Fresh air and sunshine can do wonders for physical and mental health. Weather isn’t cooperating? Get active at an indoor playground, trampoline park, or sport.
Create birthday traditions they’ll adore
Okay, maybe this one could have been lumped in with holidays. But birthdays deserve their own category! Start a creative tradition for your children’s and partner’s birthdays every single year. Maybe it’s just dining out at their restaurant of choice or decorating their bedroom door. Whatever it is, make it a new family tradition they’ll look forward to every single year.
When New Family Traditions Begin and Old Traditions End
Here’s the thing: No one said that you have to end old family traditions in order to start your own new ones. Sometimes you can have the best of both worlds… Though I will say, sometimes the new family traditions you start with your own nuclear family, once married and kids enter the picture, may take precedence over your parents’ or grandparents’ traditions.
Traditions will always come and go, like everything in life. Everyone has to learn to be flexible and embrace the change, making room for new ones. That doesn’t change anything about how great your past traditions were. Some fizzle out, some become more work than time or money allow for, and sometimes adult children simply want something different for their own families.
That is okay. It’s not a personal slight against you.
Sometimes family traditions do end or morph into new ones, though. That doesn’t mean you can’t appreciate them for what they were when they existed.
I think a lot of the sadness that comes with old traditions ending is because the person who started them often feels a sense of losing something big. Or that they’re losing family members… because now the kids have grown up to start their own families and want to create their own traditions. (Let me remind you, it’s a rite of passage into adulthood and part of becoming a parent–don’t you remember when you were their age?)
But you don’t have to look at it that way. You get to make the choice of whether or not you embrace new traditions (or accept that your grown kids have ones they’re focusing on with their new little family) or you can be stubborn, push back, and create unnecessary trouble. You get to choose whether you see the good from this situation or focus on the negative. It is not about it being a competition or some sort of power struggle. Your grown kids need to embrace this stage of their life.
The sense of belonging you had with your family doesn’t just end because a tradition ended. Remember that.
Just know that you will always have those memories and now you get to make space to create new ones… Whether it’s with your partner in this new stage of life, or with the grandkids, or even with newly close friends. Plus, you get to watch your children grow into their own families and start their own traditions. (And hey, that probably means a little less work for you.)
Really, it’s all about how you look at it. Acceptance and embracing change is a beautiful thing and a sign of maturity. On the other hand, the need to control, guilt tripping, and manipulation stem from insecurities and only breed negativity and unhealthy relationships.
One last point I’ve heard time and time again that holds so much wisdom and truth:
You had your turn at raising your family, let them raise theirs.
You raised your family. You had your chance to create traditions with your children when they were young and got to be the trailblazer for the family’s fun events that unfolded year to year… (and you were probably pretty good at it!)… But let them raise their families now.
This is their time to be parents. This is their time to start their new traditions.
Don’t stomp all over them, their roles, and their fun new traditions they want to start. It doesn’t mean you’re disowned or forgotten or that you don’t matter. In fact, and this may be a hard truth for some to swallow, it’s really not about you.
Family dynamics and roles change over time, especially as new marriages begin and children come into the mix. It’s a fact of life and part of maturing over the years. And guess what? Even the traditions your grown children create now will die out one day and they’ll be right where you are… But let them enjoy where they’re at right now with their family because it won’t last forever.