Reliving the childhood magic of holidays through the eyes of our children is one of the highlights of parenthood. At the same time, holidays can present a conundrum for those of us who are trying to simplify and focus on the things that matter most to us.
How do we create holiday fun without the consumerist frenzy that leaves our bodies full of sugar, our homes full of flimsy plastic toys, and our hearts and souls a little bit empty?
Thankfully, the things our children need most from us are not things at all. They need our time and attention. Family rituals and traditions are a great way to meet these needs in a fun way that also builds a positive family culture. As Laura Markham of Aha Parenting notes, “repetition, the comfort of belonging, the sense of wonder, magic, and celebration — all create a bonding experience that nurtures both kids and parents.” Emory University psychologist Marshall Duke has also found that children who have a strong understanding of their family history have higher levels of happiness, emotional wellbeing, and resilience.
Children who know about the basic stories of their family members — where their mother and father grew up, how their parents met, what the source of their family name is, some good and bad experiences their parents had during childhood — have higher self-esteem and a stronger sense of control over their own lives. Holidays provide a great opportunity to talk about how your own childhood and to re-create the traditions you participated in as a kid.
What if you don’t have any traditions to pass down to the next generation? Start one!
The first step to having family traditions is to try something new. If you had fun, do it again next year. For example, making the same breakfast of bunny shaped pancakes or colorful eggs provides the repetition and ritual that makes memories. No need to have a Pinterest-worthy table. Spending time together and working side by side is what kids will remember. Unlike a cheap plastic toy, these memories will stay with your kids for a lifetime.