Family Rituals Teach Values & Foster Identity in Kids
Have you ever noticed it’s the stuff you do with your kids over and over again that they really remember? (Sometimes this is good news - and sometimes not!)
As we enter the holiday season, I’ve got the usual stuff on my mind – gotta get my “A” game on for the busy round of shopping, school performances, entertaining, office parties, charity, and church. But when we strip it all down, what I really want to do is create memories. And I want my kids to be grateful for our many blessings. What’s the key to achieving both? Establishing traditions.
Each year our Christmas Eve is the same. We take a hike or a bike-ride in the morning, attend church early in the afternoon, enjoy dinner at Rustler’s Rooste - where kids and adults can plunge down a giant slide and every meal is topped off with their signature cotton candy - then, we tour the neighborhood and check out the lights. Each kid gets to open 1 gift, and after we leave cookies and milk for Santa, we tuck 3 bleary-eyed kids into one bed for a rare evening of sibling harmony. Bliss!
Out of all those magical gifts we spent so much time searching for, it’s those shared moments, the ride down the slide, the ooh-ing and ahh-ing over twinkling lights, that I’m certain our kids will remember most. It’s a treasured ritual, and holds so much more meaning than just an activity we do together. Aren’t your little ones always crying, “Again! Again!” There’s a reason for that!
In her book, The Heart of a Family, author Megan Cox says a ritual is, “almost anything, big or small, that families perform deliberately, providing there is a repetition or some dramatic flourish that elevates the activity above the ordinary grind.”
Cox argues that rituals make children feel part of something – it helps them to achieve a sense of identity. Rituals, she says, “provide security, teach values, cultivate knowledge of cultural or spiritual heritage, keep the memories of departed family members alive, create memories, and generate joy.” Wow – that’s powerful.
Chances are you’ve already started, intentionally or not, your own traditions. Since Thanksgiving is right around the corner, check out a few ideas to get the creative juices flowing:
Serve up some good cheer to someone in need. Find a place where your family can serve others together. There are plenty of online resources that will help your source volunteer opportunities for kids. Try my personal favorite, Feed My Starving Children at www.fmsc.org.
Create a Chain of Gratitude. I’m all about doing fun stuff that’s easy. Cut some colorful construction paper into strips and enlist everyone in the family to write down things for which they’re grateful. Then, make paper chain links and use them to decorate the house!
Make a Family Tree - with Cupcakes. Everyone can get in on this fun – get a large piece of white poster board and draw or paint a large tree. Make cupcakes and decorate them with the faces of each person in your family with candy, and place them around the tree for a cute picture before devouring the cupcakes. A delicious, fun way to appreciate your loved ones!
Fashion Pilgrim and Native American headgear. Score some construction paper and feathers, and perhaps a book from the library about the first Thanksgiving for a little history to boot. Then invite everyone to create a festive hat to wear during dinner. Fun!
I’d love to start a forum here for other Lucky Kat parents to share some ideas with each other. What are some of your family’s holiday traditions? Let’s inspire each other to get creative, have fun and promote those time-honored values of family, friends and faith!