Family Traditions Make for Healthier Families – Here’s How
When I think “family traditions,” I recall the valiant attempts my mother made for a Sunday night family dinner or annual summer vacations to visit her parents on the other side of the state. Of course, life got complicated quickly and those traditions fell by the wayside. (Can you say, “Teenagers”?) Today’s families struggle to find time for themselves (and each other) amidst all the distractions and activities of school, work and socializing. So what can we do? And, is it really that important?
The resounding answer is “Yes!” it is very important. In fact, family traditions may hold the key to emotional resilience in the future. In the past few years, researchers have been taking study results from the military and business worlds and applying them to families. And guess what? We could all use mission statements for our families! Well, maybe not that formal. How about just a detailed family story? When we do things as a family, it’s more than just memories we create. It’s an opportunity to share our history with each other, foster a sense of belonging to something bigger–a family. It’s the sharing part that’s crucial to building a family story.
One family (captured on video), the McCarthys, have been rafting together for 25 years in Maine. Every year, come rain or shine. This annual event strengthened their relationships and abilities to contend with the ups and downs of life. But all that happens as a byproduct. When you hear their story, they won’t talk about emotional resilience or shared history. They probably don’t even have a mission statement, but they sound better connected and bonded than the average family. Best-selling author and New York Times family columnist Bruce Feiler wrote a book about this new approach to families and one of his recommendations is pretty simple: Go Out and Play! What are you waiting for? Start your own family tradition with an annual rafting or hiking trip, share your family history with your kids, ask your grandparents where they grew up and how they survived the challenges they faced. Strengthen your family with your own family traditions, however odd or wacky. It’s all in the family.