Holiday Traditions Have a Lasting Impact

FamilyResembalnce_CarrieHolst-webWhether it’s Thanksgiving, Chanukah or Christmas, much-loved traditions help children thrive. Research shows that family time creates strong bonds and helps children build healthy relationships, develop emotional strength and thrive. Beyond this, communities that value and connect with children increase children’s developmental assets -– the qualities that build children’s resilience and help them thrive. Here are some ways to enhance your holiday experiences and strengthen family bonds.

Plan ahead.

Because holidays are a time for tradition, changes in schedule or activities should be arranged carefully to allow time to discuss, coordinate and emotionally adjust. Holiday traditions are often looked forward to throughout the year, so suggesting changes to them may be met with resistance. Several small conversations may be more effective than deciding everything at once. This is especially true for interfaith and Jewish by Choice families, when changes might be significant and feelings strong. Planning early and discussing your family’s holiday celebrations can help lead to a more peaceful holiday season.

Decisions, not dilemmas.

Decide what is important to you as a family. Is it the religious integrity of the holiday? Time with loved ones, regardless of activity? Passing down family traditions and rituals? These decisions can help you create your family’s set of holiday celebrations. For families blending different holiday traditions, Interfaith Family has great professional articles and personal reflections.

Involve children in planning and gatherings.

Build their competency, confidence and sense of contribution. These qualities all promote resiliency, as well as keep children engaged rather than underfoot. Involving kids in meal planning and prep will help them stay excited about the meal. Instead of nudging about when breakfast will be ready, they’ll be beaming with pride at having helped cook a special meal – especially if their M&M pancakes are a hit.

Be aware of needs.

Does a young child need a stable bedtime over holiday break? Is Mom looking forward to the latke-making whirl? Does Grandpa expect everyone over for his Christmas morning French toast? Talk about what’s important and how to respectfully balance needs, whether those are developmental, cultural, religious or simply logistical. Use the “guest at a birthday party” metaphor with children and extended family. If you go to a friend’s or relative’s house to celebrate a holiday you don’t normally observe, explain that you’re helping others celebrate their traditions. Young children can recognize it’s not their holiday; it’s time with friends and family.

Remember, it’s not all on you!

Sometimes we think parents have to do everything themselves, when in fact, connections outside of home are critical to children. Baking with Grandma — great! Snowshoeing with the neighbors — too cold for me, fun for them! Children learn to see other adults as valued resources, role models and sources of support. Public events are also valuable — latkes in a community gathering are delicious and let children know they belong to a community.

Schnyder.HBy Marjorie Schnyder
Marjorie Schnyder, LICSW has been at JFS over 11 years as Director of Family Life Education. As well as providing education to teachers and parents, she has a child and family therapy background. Special interests include early childhood and the intersection of culture and family. To learn what JFS has in store for parents this winter, check out our calendar.

Feature image by Carrie Holst.

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