Family connections aren’t made in the big momentous times like holidays and vacations and theme parks. They are made in the almost imperceptible milliseconds of day-to-day life. They form when a boo-boo is kissed or covered with a band-aid, when a momma sings her baby to sleep, when siblings make up after a quarrel, when memories are recalled, when an inside joke sends everyone into fits of giggles. They are made in the living.
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There is something about family that cannot be found anywhere else. The feeling of belonging, of knowing that you can be accepted for who you are, in your worst and in your best. Family connection is crucial for laying a foundation for our children for their future relationships and how they interact with the world.
If you ask someone about their family traditions, they most likely think of holiday traditions for Christmas or Easter or Thanksgiving or Hannukah. Those traditions help shape how we view those holidays and can even impact how we view ourselves as they can help give us that sense of belonging, but everyday family traditions can be just as impactful.
When I was thinking about this idea of everyday family traditions, at first, only a few came to mind, but I soon realized that we have all kinds of little things we do that set us apart from other families, little habits or games that we’ve invented that help define us as a unit.
Guess how many seconds – this is our waiting game. When we are in a restaurant or doctor’s office and we notice the kids getting a bit antsy, we ask everyone to guess how many seconds they think it will be until the food comes or the doctor arrives. When everyone has put in their guess, we s-l-o-w-l-y, slowly count all together. What the kids don’t realize is that this act of counting slowly together is actually very calming and they also keep their minds of their impatience or hunger. The person who is closest in their guess without going over wins. Their prize=just being the winner and yet, this game totally works.
Family language – all families develop their own language over time. It often stems from words a small child can’t pronounce properly that other family members think is adorable and they all begin to refer to it using that word. In our family, there are several words that came about that way and there are also quite a few Amharic words (two of our children were born in Ethiopia), some Dutch words (my husband is Dutch), and some shortened words that everyone understands the meaning of even if they make no sense to anyone else. Oddly enough, no French words have made it into our family language even though I am fluent in French. We all know that the “backie” is the “backyard” for when Jonah was little and couldn’t say the full word. We all call washcloths “dookies” for the Dutch word even though we now know that word also means something else less pleasant.
Photo albums – I used to scrapbook a lot prior to blogging and we have over 50 photo albums. The kids spend hours poring over them. Although this may not exactly be a family tradition, it contributes to our family culture and feeling of unity as we reflect on memories together.
The You Are Special plate – We were given two You Are Special plates as a gift after our last adoption. We set one out for the birthday boy or girl on their birthday of course, but we also use them to celebrate things like a child getting their driver’s license or first job, completing a project they worked hard on or another accomplishment that needs to be celebrated.
Family Fun Nights – A few times a year, I plan a really fun family fun night with themes like Minute to Win It, Just for Laughs and The Tooth Fairy Forgot. We also have smaller family fun nights that I throw together at the last minute where we may just play board games together or snuggle up and watch a special movie.
Bedtime – When we tuck the kids in, we have a routine that we follow that is very simple but consists of things like asking them about their day, praying with them and sometimes giving them a back scratch or reading them a story.
Suppertime – Every day at supper, we go around the table and answer the question “what is the best thing that happened to you today?”. We used to also ask what the worst thing was but it turned into a sibling tattling fest so we stopped that years ago! We also don’t allow cell phones at the table. It is supposed to be a time of family connection.
Birthday supper – On our kids’ birthdays, we have a family birthday supper where the kids get to pick anything they want to eat. And I really mean anything. They can choose items that don’t go together at all or an all dessert supper. They’ve chosen some pretty creative combinations over the years!
Friday night dance party – This is something we used to do every Friday night. Now we only do it once in awhile but the kids all have fond memories from it and sometimes have their own dance parties with each other. We would just put music on and dance or sometimes use Just Dance (which is super fun in a group) or watch how-to videos on YouTube.
Vacation ornaments – This one is somewhat related to our Christmas traditions but when we go on a big family vacation, I buy a Christmas ornament to help us remember the trip. When we put up our tree, we can reminisce about those holidays as we hang the ornaments.
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Other ideas for family traditions:
- secret handshakes
- quote notebook – a journal where you record cute things your kids say and the date
- annual family portrait
- family walk
- weekly pizza and movie night
- weekly board game challenge
- watch home videos together
- plant a tree to commemorate special occasions such as graduation
- have brunch together every Sunday
- family sing-along
- choreograph a dance together and then pull out your moves at weddings and parties
- write notes in their daily lunches
- group hugs
- family motto or theme song
- mother-child or father-child dates
- annual family time capsule
- serving together in the community
- annual measurements on the door frame or wall
I asked some of the bloggers that I know what their family traditions were to help give you even more ideas.
“We have family nights every Friday. We have a big slumber party, watch movies, play games, have a special dinner or snacks. We stay up late too! Weekly vacation!” ~ Alison, Pint-Sized Treasures
“With the change in every season, on the equinoxes and solstices, we always celebrate by getting outside and connecting with nature. We also light candles and talk about what we did in the previous season and our hopes for the next season.” ~ Shelley, STEAM Powered Family
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