Do you have fond memories of family traditions as a child? Do you enjoy reminiscing of the good times your family had with special family traditions? Are you creating some family traditions with your own family?
Family traditions offer a sense of belonging to family members and are especially important for blended families when relationships are being developed. My husband and I married 16 years ago in October and each of us brought two children to our marriage.
When our first Christmas rolled around, we wanted to make it special for our children. So, we began exploring what traditions we would start as a new family. We asked our children to give ideas on what they would enjoy doing together to celebrate the season.
Our traditions were very simple in the beginning because our children were young. I voiced a strong opinion on reading the Christmas story from the Bible as a family on Christmas Eve. I wanted to keep the focus on the real reason we celebrate Christmas and the gift of Jesus Christ before we opened our gifts under the tree.
Other traditions we enjoyed when our children were younger were going to special services at our church and driving through beautiful light shows together. I have fond memories of all the kids piling in the car to “ooh and ahh” at beautiful light displays while singing “The 12 Days of Christmas.”
As a blended family, we wanted to honor traditions our children were engaged in with their other family. But one tradition that was carried out in both homes was selecting and decorating a tree together. I have wonderful childhood memories of picking out a tree with my three sisters and going home to decorate it while enjoying lively conversation and beautiful Christmas music in the background. I was determined to carry out that blissful tradition with our blended family. But, I soon discovered … that wasn’t possible.
Each year my husband and I would make time to gather our four children together and hit the streets for the best looking tree we could find that fit our budget. But ever year, we ended up with grumpy children who were fighting over what tree looked the best while insisting on their way with the tree they wanted. We also noticed the kids were competing with each other over what size tree they had at their other parent’s home, creating further tension and division.
After several years, my husband and I decided to forego the stress-filled tree-shopping excursion and buy an artificial tree. It was sad for me at first to admit that our family couldn’t enjoy the same blissful tree-shopping experience my family of origin did. But I wanted our family traditions to be a way of uniting our family, and I knew this tradition wasn’t working for us.
The purpose of family traditions is to create bonds among family members that are strengthened each year as the traditions are carried out together. For blended families, those bonds are vital to the health of the family. Meaningful traditions provide a way of expressing love and laughter together, insulating a family from brokenness and conflict. Loyalty and commitment toward one another is gained while working toward an established purpose.
It’s never too late to start family traditions. They don’t have to be fancy or cost a lot of money. But they can be invaluable for your blended family as relationships are bonded together.
Gayla Grace is a speak, author and coach and writes at Step Parenting with Grace
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