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Title: Positive Parenting - Traditions and Holidays

Category: Positive Parenting


        One of the best things we can do in positive parenting is to establish happy, memorable traditions with our children.  This can include everything from family meals to singing in the car on the way to church on Sundays to tucking in our kids at night with family prayer.  It also can include special traditions at holidays and other family occasions.  Usually these are a combination of family traditions handed down in the family of each parent.  This makes it an especially unique mix of fun and heartwarming activities.

      Regarding non-holiday traditions, the first one that      comes to mind is our family bedtime ritual.  My wife established early on a ritual of family prayer with each child giving thanks for their blessings of the day and each family member contributing to the overall family prayers.

      Studies show that the last 15 minutes of the day is repeated in our dreams about 10 times.  This compares to three repetitions for all other activities of the day.  For this reason, it is especially worthwhile to spend the last part of each day tucking each child in and having a nice calming bedtime routine or family ritual.  This helps to engender better dreams and positive happy thoughts through the night.  In our family each child had a special nick-name and a special bedtime song which my wife and I sang to them each night while tucking them in until they were about eight years old.  It's amazing how fondly they remember both the songs and the nick-names.

      Another family tradition which my kids tell me means the world to them is summer vacations shared together.  We have gone to a special camp in Bull Shoals, Arkansas for the past 11 summers.  Whether it's four days or two weeks, the excitement of planning that trip, seeing familiar friends and doing all of our favorite things summer after summer continues to motivate our children.  I believe they will quite likely follow the same tradition with their children when the time comes and share many of the same fun activities and happy memories over and over again.  The family who has the house next door to ours is on their fourth generation of this same type tradition. 

      Traditions and rituals can be whatever you want them to be.  I know a family who has a week-end ritual of always going to the movies as a family after Sunday mass.  They go to mass together and then they go to lunch at a local restaurant, and then to the movies.  I think this is a great tradition and I know that the children in this family miss it whenever there is a conflict.

      Whether you are a camping family, a soft ball playing family, a water sports family, or a bird watching family, the important thing is that you share the activities, rituals and traditions together, as parents and children.  These activities, which start out simple, can over a lifetime become some of the most meaningful shared memories in your children's lives.  There is something special about sharing that off time together when there is no pressure from work or school that draws families especially close together.

      Holidays are certainly a natural time to establish family traditions.  In our family, two of our children's favorite holidays are St. Patrick's day and Mardi Gras.  This is largely due to their Irish Catholic mother from New Orleans who loves these holidays with a passion.  On St. Patrick's day the kids awaken to green cellophane hidden outside where the leprechauns have left it followed by green eggs and ham for breakfast, bright green stickers for school and work, and a neighborhood party with Irish soda bread, lentil soup, and corned beef and cabbage for supper.  They just would not know what to do if this didn't occur every St. Pat's Day.  For Mardi Gras, costuming and planning get togethers with family and friends and parades is so important that they begin planning their costumes months in advance. 

        Other holiday rituals which I especially enjoy in our family are Christmas when we sing songs and say prayers every night of the Advent season and light candles with our Advent wreath.  This usually culminates at a children's mass on Christmas Eve in which the grandparents, aunts and uncles all join us for a wonderful Christmas mass followed by a family get-together at my sister's home in which Santa Claus brings presents to the little kids.  I hope our children have learned through our example that it is more blessed to give than to receive and what the Christmas holiday season is truly all about.

      Regular family rituals and traditions build happy memory tapes for all our children.  This is one more way to keep families close through the generations and keep the kids coming home for holidays and special occasions.  Certainly this is a worthwhile goal in our fast paced society where nuclear and extended families scatter across the country and the world.