by Meg Davis, MS, Managing Senior Editor, Education Department
“We want to raise our children so that they can take a sense of pleasure in both their own heritage and the diversity of others.” – Fred Rogers
The months of November, December and January present many opportunities for children to learn about and participate in cherished family traditions. Family traditions provide time to reflect on our values and how to communicate those values to our family members through meaningful and heartfelt experiences. Family traditions also contribute significantly to the social development of children. As old traditions are shared and new ones are created, children learn about themselves and their families, as well as the people in their communities and the world around them.
Embracing Old Traditions
Young children often love hearing about adult family members as children, so consider sharing some of the favorite traditions from your childhood with your own children. Your children may even enjoy creating a journal or a scrapbook of your family’s traditions and celebrations. And because food and the preparation of food are essential to many family traditions across many cultures, why not start your own collection of favorite family recipes for future generations? One of my most prized possessions, for example, is a scrapbook containing all of my mother’s holiday cookie recipes, with favorites such as “Napoleon Cremes” and “Hermits.” Written mostly in my mother’s handwriting on index cards stained long ago with vanilla or some other ingredient, the recipes take me back to the days when I stood at her side measuring and mixing ingredients, always needing to sample tablespoons of any sweet and sticky dough, just to make sure the cookies would turn out okay.
Creating New Traditions
Shared traditions bring families together, but as family members change, sometimes family traditions change too. The traditions you create and share with your family members and friends are a reflection of your values and the things that are important in your life. For some families, creating meaningful traditions involves activities related to their religion or faith. For others, it involves reaching out to their communities. Children who participate in community service activities learn valuable life skills including increased confidence and responsibility. Exposing children to nature is also a wonderful way to enhance family togetherness and create traditions. In fact, research proves that direct exposure to nature is essential for healthy development in children, both physically and emotionally.
Whether embracing traditions from your past or creating new ones of your own, savor them all and keep their messages in your heart, this season and always.
What’s your favorite family holiday tradition from your childhood? Are you creating any new traditions with your own family? Share in the comments!