Enjoying the Holidays and Creating Traditions with your Teen
Recall your favorite childhood memories, and many of them probably stem from a tradition your family held every year or on occasion. Traditions are customs that are maintained in generally the same way each time they are performed. That could mean going to the same place at the same time each year, or performing an activity together in the same way, or even sharing certain foods. Sometimes creating family traditions might seem like another hassle for parents, but they can be very simple and are vital to a family’s health.
The maintenance of family traditions is far more important to children of all ages than most parents realize. Traditions create and establish the boundaries of a family. The child gains a sense of belonging through family rituals that makes them part of a clearly defined unit that is separate from all their peers. This belonging is just as important for teenagers as it is to young children, because adolescents are going through a highly insecure stage and really need the security that a family unit provides.
Parents have the chance to create holiday traditions that are both large and small. Not all traditions need to be elaborate. Simple things – such as sharing a special meal or wearing a holiday outfit or watching a specific movie – can create lasting memories.
Traditions should brighten holidays and bring children and family together. If that’s the purpose, then clearly it’s important that parents evaluate their traditions to make sure they are achieving the goal. Traditions can become outmoded as children get older, or they may need to be revised as family dynamics change (divorce, marriage, births, etc.). Sometimes specific traditions that you may have loved as a child just aren’t working for your family now and may cause more stress than joy. New family customs for the holidays will need to be found as older children have families of their own. By deciding what customs and activities still work, or could work in the future, parents can encourage fun and meaningful holiday customs.
Dr. Scott Wooding, Canada’s leading authority on parenting teenagers, stated, “Teenagers often shake their parents’ faith in the value of traditions because they need to spend so much time with their friends. They will often question the value of the custom and vigorously demand to do something else. Don’t panic. They are often just testing. Insist that traditions be inviolate and that all family members attend. If your teen wants to go to a party rather than attend a traditional family dinner, the answer has to be ‘no’. Similarly, if your boss’s Christmas open house is the day you usually go out and cut your tree, again the family custom must come first. As hard as this sometimes might be, the family has to come first. As soon as exceptions start to be made, the tradition dies out and the family has lost what may have been a great moment. Teens will in fact appreciate this even if, on the surface, they make protestations. It is important, however, that you discuss your reasons for keeping the family customs with teens, since they really do need to know why things are happening. Just keep your temper, make your explanation, and maintain your resolve. Years from now you will see your children keeping the same traditions in their families.”
Traditions are not only important for creating and preserving childhood memories, they are also important because they create a unique setting for some great quality time with family that you may not normally get and because they represent stability and continuity for families. Traditions are something you can count on and often look forward to. Regardless of the religion or set of beliefs you hold, traditions can and should be part of the family.