When I think of family traditions, I immediately think of holiday traditions (e.g, Christmas trees and Mass on Christmas, eating corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick’s Day, dressing up for Halloween armed with a pillowcase to collect candy, etc.). While holiday traditions are full of opportunities to spend time together and deepen relationships among the generations, daily family traditions should also be recognized for the significant impact they have on the development of our children. Think about all your child learns and how your relationship with him/her is influenced by daily traditions like:
- Gathering together at the dinner table
- Reading stories and/or sharing prayers at bedtime
- Watching Saturday morning cartoons in pajamas
During activities such as these, our children listen and learn about how to interact with one another, develop a sense of trust, belonging and commitment and share engaged time with those who are important in their lives. Additionally, they hear numerous examples of how to talk about a wide range of issues and are exposed to complex vocabulary concepts and opportunities to express their opinions in a supportive environment.
I thought it would be fun to ask my friends about daily or regular family traditions that are special to their families. Here are a few of the traditions that sounded like fun and provided opportunities to deepen communication:
“Cute Kid Quote Jar”
What is it? Convert an old cookie jar or paint can into a quote jar to collect cute quotes from your kids.
Purpose/How to Do It: Kids say the cutest things, but who has time to write it down in a babybook? Put a few index cards or scrapbook paper leftovers in an envelope and a pen into a “quote” jar and put it on your kitchen counter. Anytime one of your kiddos says something cute you want to remember, write it out quickly on the cards/scraps in the jar (don’t forget a name and date) and pop the quote in the jar. My friend said she and her husband periodically pull out the quotes and share them with the kids and family. Everyone enjoys the memories!
“Compliment Car Rides”
What is it? Do your kids fight in the car (mine do!)? My friend has a tradition of having the kids stay positive in the car by complimenting each other. Even her 1-year-old gets into it! Evidently her big kids were goofing around saying “nice” about each person in the car. Her 1-year-old wanted to get into the game and, once it was her turn, pointed to each sibling and said “nice,” then pointed to her Daddy and said, “nice hugs”.
Purpose/How to Do It: Each person in the car must say a kind word or give a compliment to each other person in the car. Of course the kids often get silly and my friend says that’s all part of the family fun. My friend says the big kids complained at first, so start with the little kids. Even if you have a Grinch along for the ride, setting a positive tone in the car is sure to set the day off right and encourage strong bonds and communication between family members.
What is it? Dinner time can be a tough time to get everyone to sit and eat, let alone communicate! A friend said her older kids would eat and try to escape to their rooms before everyone was done eating until they started “Dinnertime Drama Theater.” Basically, this family chooses a different accent or voice and speaks through out dinner in that accent/voice.
Purpose/How to Do It: My friend has the kids come to agreement on which accent or voice the group will talk in and then they go about dinner as they normally would. She says the big kids rolled their eyes a bit when they first started doing this, but now have become very creative (e.g., tonight let’s talk like a mouse who is missing a front tooth or a regal queen with a cold, etc.). Of course, you can always stick with something simple, but the more creative, the more to talk about! My family tried this last night and the kids had a blast!!!
Regardless of the tradition, what is important when trying to deepen communication with your kids is that you engage and share experiences together! I hope these ideas will spur your imagination and communication.