Family traditions enhance children’s emotional well-being by helping to create feelings of security, continuity and identity. Families with established traditions and those who actively form new actions or events as traditions are more likely to create strong bonds among members. Family configurations vary considerably, but those who live together can create and celebrate traditions that reflect their caring for each other.

Thanksgiving is an example of one tradition that many people celebrate. It is a time for extended families to:
Enjoy a meal together.
Share pleasant memories.
Reflect on the positive aspects of their family.
Remember those who are less fortunate.
Some ways to cultivate gratitude in children are:
At mealtime or bedtime, hold hands and name something or someone each is grateful to have in his/her life. Do this daily, weekly and/or at holiday gatherings.
Keep a family “Appreciation Journal” to be read on Thanksgiving Day. Place it in a central location so that everyone can make entries throughout the year.
Encourage children to donate their used clothing, toys or part of their earned money or allowance to a charity.

Other family traditions that increase a child’s sense of security and emotional well-being:
Read stories or books aloud together.
Film family celebrations or take pictures that help children recall pleasant memories.
Place photos in frames or in albums to view together.
Tell family stories.
Watch movies or television shows together that are educational or that reinforce your values.
Set aside an evening once a week when you eat pizza or popcorn and watch a movie or play a game together.
Participate in bedtime rituals such as telling or reading a story, singing a song, and/or saying a prayer.
Share interests such as gardening, woodworking, singing, baking, hiking, playing an instrument, being active in a sport, etc.
Do activities together like taking walks, having picnics, visiting museums, attending sports events, volunteering, or participating in school functions.
Prepare traditional foods made for certain occasions (see “Is Family Mealtime Important?”).
Work together making meals, setting the table, cleaning up, etc.
Use a special dinner plate for a family member who has a reason to celebrate: for example, for a child who won a blue ribbon, sang a solo, or for a parent who received a promotion.
Make a sign to welcome a family member home after a trip.
Commemorate birthdays, graduations, weddings, anniversaries and holidays together in your own distinctive way.
Use balloons, crepe paper or other traditional decorations for special occasions.
For a birthday celebration, take a photo of the child with his/her birthday cake. Through the years display the pictures together to record the child’s growth.
Encourage kindness. When your child does a good deed, acknowledge it in some way.
Bake items or make handmade cards to express caring for others.
Ask your children to suggest new family traditions.
Have family meetings to discuss concerns, happenings and to set goals.
If children participate in developing and celebrating meaningful family traditions throughout their lives, they will be more likely to feel confident and optimistic about their futures (see "The 8 “L’s” of Parenting" and "Is Family Meatime Important?").
Used by permission of the author, Leah Davies, and selected from the Kelly Bear website []. 8/06

Author's Bio: 

Leah Davies is an author, child advocate and educational consultant living in Bend, Oregon. Over the past thirty years, she has been a teacher, counselor, consultant, director of prevention services for a mental health agency, and instructor of college students.

Ms. Davies is author of the character-building Kelly Bear books, videos, CD-ROMS, songs, and violence/drug use prevention curriculum. The materials enhance communication and bonding between adults and children ages three to nine. These valuable tools help children to understand themselves and others, develop social competence, become motivated and responsible, learn decision-making skills, and make healthy living choices.

Over 250,000 Kelly Bear books are used in schools, agencies, and homes worldwide. The Kelly Bear video on "Secret Touching" won first place in the 1999 National Council on Family Relations Annual Media Awards.

She has presented seminars at numerous regional and national professional conferences including the American Counseling Association, the Association for Childhood Education International and the National School-Age Care Alliance.

Leah's articles have appeared in The School Counselor, Early Childhood News, Elementary School Guidance and Counseling, and the National Head Start Association Journal. She received her Master's Degree from the Department of Counseling and Counseling Psychology at Auburn University.