Did you know that the day to day traditions strengthen your relationships? Growing up, the holidays were a magical time for my family. We looked forward to the beautiful china that was set on the Thanksgiving table, the Danish Christmas breakfast of bread and gravy, and preforming the holiday plays we spent endless hours creating. Why did we care so much about what was done during the holidays? Because it was a Tradition!
The online dictionary defines a tradition as “a time honored practice,” or “customs and beliefs that are handed down from one generation to another.” A tradition is “something that comforts us and makes us feel grounded-regardless of what’s caving in around us.”*
When we think of traditions, we think of holidays and the special things we do to celebrate together with the people we love. However, some of the best and most important traditions are celebrated daily. These daily traditions do not have to be complex or expensive, but they do have to be consistent (or they wouldn’t be traditions ). “Celebrating a tradition with somebody says “I love you” or “you’re important to me”-with actions, rather than just words.”*
There are many little traditions that we can do daily that will make a difference in the lives of those we care about. Here are my two favorite traditions that I remember growing up.
Reading: One of my favorite times of the day was when either my Mom or Dad would sneak away from my other siblings and climb into my bed, pull the covers up, and read with me. We would always read, but a lot of the times it ended up in laughter and talking about the day’s events. It was my time to spend with my parents.
Reading aloud is the most effective ways to model language and improve language skills. In addition, reading with a child has also been shown to improve emotional and social development. It is a time when the child can form appropriate bonds of love and attachment. Barry Zuckerman, of the department of Pediatrics at Boston University, School of Medicine said, “most importantly, reading aloud is a period of shared attention and emotion between parent and child. Children ultimately learn to love books because they are sharing it with someone they love.”**
Mealtimes: The other time of the day that my family spent together without fail was dinner time. My parents were very diligent in creating this time for us to come together as a family. At the time, I didn’t appreciate the stability it brought into our family. In a world of fast food and busy schedules and activities, it is hard to slow down long enough to eat together as a family. Eating “on the road” (not road kill, totally different article) seems like the norm these days. However, having mealtimes together is probably the most natural of all the traditions because everyone needs to eat and we’ve been doing it in social groups throughout time. “A telephone survey of almost 2000 teenagers indicated that frequent family dinners were associated with decreased risk for smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol, and smoking marijuana. Family mealtimes can be seen as a positive context for emotional and physical well-being among youth. The rituals developed by families during mealtimes and the repeated behaviors over time can build a sense of unity, identity, and connectedness that may be particularly important during adolescent development. These shared repeated rituals help to stabilize families and form a sense of tradition and structure.”***
It is never too late to start new traditions, or to “restart” old traditions that have dwindled over the years. Try it, you might like it! Find something that is important to you and your family, and start doing it daily, weekly or monthly. Research has shown that behavior change takes time and practice to stick. In fact, if you can stick to something for six months it will likely stick around for much longer. It is worth the effort!
*“Pay Tribute with Tradition” by Jan Denise
**Zuckerman’s research is published in the Journal Archives of Disease in Childhood
***“Family Dinner Meal Frequency and Adolescent Development: Realtionships with Developmental Assets and High-Risk Behaviors”, Journal of Adolesent Health, Volume 39, Issue 3
About the Author: Camille Olson is currently working in the marketing department at the South Shore Center for Couples & Families. She received her B.S. degree from Brigham Young University in elementary education. She is married and is the mother of five children.