New Family Traditions: How to Get Everyone On Board. Part II in a III part series. (Read Part I here.)
Keep a few rituals from your childhood. Try them out.
How do they work in your family?Not all time-worn rituals are worth keeping.
We have very mixed set of old and new around my house. I grew up Christian Methodist; several of our closest friends are Jewish.
Gentile meets Jewish; north meets south. You get the picture. Let's just say we've had a lot of culture to choose from.
I've always wanted my three children to be exposed to myriad backgrounds, so we did what a lot of families and friends do during the holiday season.
We blended the best of our favorite rituals and created new ones with our nearest and dearest.
When we celebrate Hanukkah, they light candles and say prayers and get a small gift on each of the eight days of the festival.
We put up a tree and Santa comes and we open one present on Christmas Eve; the rest of the presents Christmas morning.
And the new ones? We always have a tree decorating party with another family. And we always spend Christmas Eve day at Disneyland.
Some rituals must change with the times and circumstances. One of our own - our most loved - was hosting a family New Year's Eve party each year.
We started it because New Year's Eve - usually a grown-ups-only night - seemed a bit odd without my three children around to ring in the new year.
So we decided to invite other families in our
neighborhood over for a family party. And the custom of young and old celebrating together grew
until we didn't even have to send out invitations each year. People just
knew to show up.
Some family members (namely kids) are suspicious of anything new.
My friend Kimberli said her boys don't mind her making anything she likes for Thanksgiving dinner - as long as she makes all the old favorites, too.
When trying out a new tradition, don't make a big fuss about it - and don't try to force it.
The one surefire way to turn off kids - especially teens - is to make a big announcement that: "From now on, this family is always doing X on Y day. And everyone is required to be there!"
Yes, attendance is required at some family traditions. Birthdays, Christmas Eve, and Thanksgiving come to mind for me.
But no one has fun if someone is sulking because they wanted to be doing something else. Choose your battles.
For Christmas, for example, designate just a few events that are mandatory for everyone in the family (whether they have a driver's license or not). And designate even fewer that are family only - no friends, no boyfriends, no lonely neighbors.
For the rest, get together with the kids who want to do it and have fun. Maybe John will notice how much fun he's missing and join everyone next year. Or not.
But don't let him spoil it for the rest of the family. The more voluntary the participation, the more successful the happening.
About the Author
Tara Aronson is a native Californian. Having grown up in San Diego, she studied journalism and Spanish to pursue a career in newspaper writing. Tara, whose three children - Chris, Lyndsay, and Payne - are the light of her life, now lives and writes in Los Angeles. She also regularly appears on television news programs throughout the U.S.