Family traditions are part of the glue that holds a family together. In an article she wrote for Psychology Today, psychiatrist Abigail Brenner, M.D. says family traditions help build your children’s sense of security and self-esteem. She calls these rituals an integral part of a family’s “language,” explaining that they help keep us connected.
Perhaps you and your children have a tree decorating ceremony each December or you share what you are thankful for each Thanksgiving. Maybe you make a special breakfast as part of each birthday celebration. But did you know that family traditions can move beyond major holidays? You can bond your family members with unique ceremonies throughout the year. These seemingly minor events may end up forming many of the happy memories your kids have of their childhood.
Here are some of our ideas for celebrating the everyday with your family.
Half Birthdays. One of my adult daughters recently told me that she was surprised to learn at about age eight that not every family celebrates half birthdays. I smiled as I recalled the tradition we started as a way for her and her older brother – two winter babies – to have a little extra fun in the summer. On their half birthdays, my six little ones were able to choose an inexpensive toy at the store. Then they could decide what the family had for dinner that night and enjoy half birthday cupcakes for dessert after they blew out half a candle and made half a wish. As they grew older, it was fine to select an inexpensive gadget or clothing item instead of a toy. (The cupcakes remain sacrosanct, however.) The idea is not to replicate their real birthday but to just have fun acknowledging half a year of growth and accomplishments.
First Day of Summer. The beginning of summer holds so much promise for a child. Harness that sweet expectation by celebrating the longest day of the year. Here are a few ideas you can try. (If the weather does not permit, you can try these ideas on the first day of summer weather.)
- Backyard cookout complete with s’mores
- Homemade popsicle or ice cream making
- Bubble wands and bubbles. Have the kids wear swimsuits and try making giant wands out of hangers and hula hoops and using a wading pool to hold a homemade bubble solution.
- Outdoor movie night. Project a movie onto a sheet. Set up blankets and lawn chairs to watch some family classics. Don’t forget the popcorn.
- Backyard sleep-out
Full Moon Walks. Use the occasion of a full moon to take a night-time walk together each month. Find a quiet spot where you can hear the sounds of nature and bask in the glow of the moon as you enjoy each other’s company. Anyone who can perform Michael Jackson’s moonwalk en route earns some extra points!
First Friday Game Nights. Family game nights are a great way to have fun together. As your kids grow and things get more hectic, having these evenings every week can become difficult. You can keep the tradition alive longer by making it a First Friday event. Plan to spend the First Friday evening of each month having an easy dinner – such as take-out pizza—and playing non-tech board and card games as a group. Or what about a rousing game of charades? Karaoke?
Pet Anniversaries. When you adopt a pet from a shelter, you usually don’t know their real birthday. However, you can celebrate the day you adopted your furry friend as a fun annual event. Make a splash with animal-themed decorations (homemade works best) and small treats and gifts for the guest of honor. Party hats for everyone are a must.
Family read-aloud night. The benefits of reading aloud with your children do not stop then they learn to read themselves. As you continue to read aloud together, you help expand their vocabulary and knowledge and model the importance of literacy. On family read-aloud night, you can take turns reading chapters from the same book, or each family member can read aloud from a personal book choice. Extra credit for anyone who plans and prepares book-themed snacks!
We’re sure you can come up with many more ideas that are based on your family’s interests. You’ll find out which ones resonate with your kids and become keepers. The pay-off will come when you get to witness them passing down these family traditions to your grandchildren.