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Creating Family Traditions (Without Creating a Burden)

Everybody loves family traditions so we’re here to help you start some and not overcomplicate them to the point that they become a burden to do.

In this crazy stay-at-home thing we’re doing now, we started some family traditions that we look forward to all week and we’re going to keep up long after we break out!

WHY

Family traditions (or rituals in social science talk) are those sacred activities that families purposely repeat and sustain over time together. They heighten our sense of connection, give us something to look forward to and create an “emotional residue” (the good kind) which gets replayed in our memories and recaptures that good feeling even when we’re not doing them – just thinking about them. They’re also an important break from the craziness of the everyday and a source of comfort and stability to the family. All around goodness.

What To Do (Bites)

  1. First, decide what you want your family to experience.

    Sounds heady but it’s really not. Simply put, what is the purpose behind the ritual? Is the goal to feel connected to each other? To have fun together? To learn something together? To share family stories? To instill a set of values? Don’t overthink the intention, just ask yourself: what am I trying to foster? What you choose to do is shaped by your intention, so think about it.

  2. Make them routine in structure with a special simple twist

    The routine structure makes it familiar, repeatable and easy to execute. It’s the twist that makes it yours, different from the routine, and special. Try not to overcomplicate it. You’ll regret it because it will make it challenging to sustain over time (a key feature in rituals).

  3. Help the the family own it.

    If you create the story and repeat it, your children will own it and reinforce its importance. Don’t hire anyone to name it. “The Jetson Family Movie Night” or “The Simpson Family Teddy Bear Brunch” – are good enough.

I wasn’t there to make the best dessert for the bake sale, but I was there for things that were important to us, including our weekly family tradition of Friday Family Pizza Night.

Tips

  1. We’ll say it again: keep it simple. Nothing here should be Pinterest worthy. To embed a ritual, you have to be able to sustain it over time, which can be especially difficult in the CIAIYs. Keep it simple. Kids don’t care. They’ll love the tradition of it.

  2. Family rituals can engage all family members. Ok, maybe not infants but soon everyone can put their fingerprint on the ritual by contributing in some way. Little jobs or assigned tasks in the rituals contribute to a feeling of self-importance and belonging. But keep it simple (can we say that one more time?) and age appropriate. It could be your 3-year-old dumps the gummies in the popcorn on your family movie night.

  3. Be in the moment: It’s about a moment between you and your kid(s). You can take a quick pic but don’t post it. You’ll be distracted. It’s a routine of connection – it doesn’t have to be an Insta story.

Our Favorite Examples

  • Weekly/Monthly Meal Rituals
    • French Breakfast Sunday: “We went out and bought croissant every Sunday, made hot chocolate and called it French Brunch. It was nothing, but our boys looked forward to it and still talk about it (now they’re in their 20s).”
    • Pancake Parties: “Once a month we dedicate a weekend breakfast to pancake parties. Fun shapes, chocolate chips and sprinkles make it special.”
    • Bring your ‘friend’ to dinner night. “Every Tuesday we do ‘bring your friend to dinner night.’ The kids each pick a stuffed animal or doll or whatever toy is their ‘friend’ and they bring them to dinner. It’s easy and changes it up. When we get to leave the house, we’re going to switch it to once a month so it’s easier to continue.”
    • Saturday Sundae Bar: “We had a set routine on Saturdays, late in the day we’d set up a sundae bar – ice cream, candy, whatever they wanted to put on it. As the kids got older, we would go to the bulk candy place and one of them gets $5 to pick the candy for the week. The ‘who’ rotated by week. It’s a fun, unbridled indulgence that they loved.”
  • PJs All Day
    • “Once a month we have a PJ All Day family day. It’s not so complicated. We just stay in PJs all day but it’s a fun vibe and the kids love it. If there’s an activity that we have to go to that day, we all have to keep some part of the PJ wardrobe if possible.”
  • We’ve Got Talent
    • Kids love talent shows. Many moms told us they created a family talent show where everyone prepped a talent. You decide if your family can handle voting for winners – for some families that’s a recipe for disaster – or just silly prizes.
  • Game Night
    • “Once a week we all sit down for a board game or puzzle we do together. It’s usually only 30 minutes but we rotate who gets to choose and everyone always looks forward to it, especially when it’s their turn.”
  • Family Movie Night
    • “Every other Friday night we would have Family Movie Night. We’d pull the sofa up closer than we’d otherwise allow, throw gummies and popcorn together in a big bowl and all sit together on the sofa. It is nothing really but the kids love it, look forward to it and never want us to miss it.”
  • Birthday Rituals
    • Birthday Fairy: “We created a Birthday Fairy story and a simple surprise around it. After the birthday boy or girl went to bed and was fast asleep, we’d blow up balloons, and tape up (masking tape to not ruin paint) the balloons, crepe paper streamers and curly streamers and plastered the room with them. When the birthday girl or boy woke up, the delight on their face was priceless. We took everything down when they fell asleep that night and left a SMALL treat under their pillow and the pillows of their siblings.”
    • Birthday Breakfast: “Every year we do cake for breakfast on their birthdays – it’s novel and they aren’t bouncing off the walls before bedtime!”
I’ve made it clear at my office that I am home for our traditional Friday night dinner. They know I’ll say ‘no’ to a meeting that interferes with me getting out on time.

Hope you found this helpful! Got a topic you’d like some wisdom on? Let us know.

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