Family Traditions

This time of year always makes me think of the many traditions that we have developed over the years of raising our children. I suppose that’s because of the variety of fun holidays that occur within the next few months.

One of the parts of raising kids almost to adulthood (my four kids are now 17-20 years old) that has totally surprised me is their interest in hanging on to some of the family traditions that we began when they were very young. Activities that were designed with little kids in mind – things we did together to help celebrate. Like reading Twas the Night Before Christmas aloud together, hanging stockings, leaving cookies and milk for Santa. Like raking all the leaves into a giant pile and jumping into them. Or making a “thankful tree”. Like all six of us working together to decorate the Christmas trees. All activities that are still a part of our annual holiday celebrations. Every year. Yup – even this year. (Did I mention that three out of four of the kids are in college?)

Which got me thinking – what is it about these kinds of family traditions that make them so important to us and to our children as they grow? How is it possible that making a “reindeer wreath” still matters to kids who are nearly grown?

I think that it has to do with connections.

Human babies cannot survive on their own – they have to rely on the bigger folks around them to provide everything they need. And one of the best ways to make sure that some big person is going to stick around and look out for you is to get them to connect with you. Connection is also how you get that same big person to help teach you how to someday be a grown-up yourself. We are hard-wired to connect. Ever watch a baby or toddler when they catch your eye in the line at the grocery store, and at the next table in a restaurant? They kick into “cute” mode – smiling, playing peek-a-boo, maybe offering you a toy or part of their dinner. They’re looking to connect. Turns out, we need connections to other people throughout the rest of our lives too.

Traditions build connections between us and our kids; between our kids and the rest of our extended family, neighborhood, or community; and between our kids – and our kids. The kinds of connections that help us learn and grow, that help us know who we are and who we can grow to be. The kinds of connections that help us survive – socially, emotionally and physically. And even better, traditions are fun!

So – go ahead – have some fun– spend some time this fall making some new traditions (or continuing old ones). You’ll be helping your kids connect to each other, to you, and to the world. They’ll thank you for it.

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