Who Needs Family Rituals?

When you’re raising kids, life goes fast. One minute you’re changing diapers, the next you’re buying balloons for a graduation party or helping a young adult pick out wedding invitations. Somewhere in between all those trips to the dentist, all day soccer tournaments and precious family vacations, your kids grow up.

Given the crazy pace we all seem to keep these days (kids included), many parents wonder how to keep family life meaningful and memorable. We all hope and pray for a family that is close, treasures time spent together and is made up of individuals who feel they are part of something wonderful and unique. But how do you create that? What is the glue that binds people in a family together and when and how do you apply it?

We believe that one of the most important elements that goes into the creation of a happy family is the development of rituals and traditions that are kept and remembered year to year. Why? Because traditions and rituals help families know who they are. They create family bonds and provide a way for the older generation to transmit importantly held values and beliefs to the younger members of their tribe.

Some traditions and rituals are meant just for the immediate family and may include simple things you do on a daily or weekly basis, like “Family Game Night” or reading three picture story books together before turning out the light. Others may be more elaborate and include special foods or table decorations that are reserved for a particular, yearly holiday celebration.

Other traditions include the larger, extended family and/or close family friends. In the case where family members live miles apart from each other, a time honored tradition gives everyone an important reason to come together to mark an important occasion, celebrate a favorite holiday, or support one another during a difficult transition like the death of a family member.

Perhaps the biggest fans of traditions and rituals are kids. Not only do these occasions help them to see that they are part of something bigger and richer that includes the family as a whole, they also help to create a sense of unity and connectedness, a sense of comfort and stability, and a basketful of shared memories. In a word, they are priceless.

If you are interested in starting some new traditions within the family you have made, or modifying some old ones that don’t work so well anymore, take a look at this fabulous new book by Meg Cox.

In The Heart of a Family: Searching for America for New Traditions That Fulfill Us, Cox writes about every aspect of family traditions and reports on which ones work to help families connect and stay connected and which ones don’t. In her research, she interviewed more than 200 families and has tons of valuable information to share.

This is one book you will be happy to have on your bookshelf and a great one to pass along to any new couple who is either tying the knot or awaiting the stork. You won’t be disappointed.








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Ellen and Rachel are two old friends and “expert” mamas—one a pediatrician and one a family therapist—with fifty years of parenting experience between them.

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