Family Traditions: A Few Worth Keeping (and a Few that Aren't)

By: Vicki Bohling

My earliest memory of a family tradition centers on my bedtime ritual as a little girl. If I was having trouble saying goodbye to the day, my dad would have me grab his hands, stand on his feet, and he would “walk” me to bed, singing an old Sammy Kaye song about a robin who couldn’t afford to fly so it had to walk all the way to Missouri. That was years ago, but I can still sing the whole song to this day.

Dad was also a rock star at storytelling. Our favorite plot line involved the adventures of an invisible character named “Yahootee” who could be both helpful and mischievous. (I now see this for the ingenious and crafty parenting strategy it was.) Though I wasn’t nearly as good at it, I found that my own kids would often choose a homespun story over a bedtime book when they were little. “Shirley Shy Tooth” was one of my daughter’s favorite characters. Seems goofy now, but she still remembers.

When you say “family traditions” lots of people think of big ticket events that come around every so often – holidays, birthday celebrations, religious ceremonies. Important, no doubt, but many traditions are much more subtle, embedded in the minutia of everyday life. At our house, we have our own traditions: The person who cooks is different from the person who cleans up; it’s not a family gathering until a board game breaks out; we have special (and very secret) songs we sing to our beloved dog, Scout; and all of us have at least two Nebraska Cornhusker t-shirts in our wardrobe at any given time.

Get more ideas for creating everyday family traditions >>

Family traditions are important. They connect family members to each other and one generation to the next, like a strong but invisible glue. They give kids of a sense of belonging as they experience the “we” and “us” of being on the family team. In the midst of hectic schedules, traditions provide comfort that comes from predictable patterns and routines. But not all traditions are worth keeping! Just because your mom always made you drink warm ginger ale when you had a stomachache, does not mean you have to do the same thing with your kids. My kids enjoy many of the traditional recipes I grew up with as a child, but I am saying right here, right now – the consumption of organ meat is dying with me. My kids don’t even know what a chicken gizzard is.

Whether they are long standing or brand new, family traditions can leave lasting imprints – even in the smallest form. Case in point: The first moment I remember thinking I might want to even be a parent was while I was searching for aluminum foil in my kitchen drawer. At that moment, I remember noting that the contents of the drawer were organized in the same way you’d find them in my mom’s kitchen – a tradition I had subconsciously carried along into adulthood. I remember thinking, I wonder if my kids’ kitchen drawers will look like this

…wait a minute…

…my kids?

My future grandchildren will be glad I needed a piece of aluminum foil that day ;)


Other Resources:

  • Cafe Traditions: The Importance of Family Traditions
  • Creating Family Traditions
  • Family Traditions
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    Really sweet family traditions both in the family you grew up in and the family you are raising. The thing I would like to highlight is that even if can’t think of a family tradition your family had growing up, you can make them up for the family you are raising. It’s never too late to create lasting memories. Try something small and see what happens!

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