A Facebook post from four years ago popped up on my feed of a holiday tradition my family has celebrated for years. I remembered it like it was yesterday. It made me so happy! It got me thinking about how family traditions leave lasting impressions on a child's heart and soul. Whether thats a good impression or a bad one is up to us as parents.
Today I was asked what one of my favorite childhood memories was. That's easy! I loved Christmas because we celebrated such simple traditions when I was a child. I am sure most people would think they were silly, but I looked forward to them every year. The friend who asked me the question experienced the opposite feelings at Christmas.
Where I had joy, she felt stress.
Where I felt safe, she was anxious.
As we talked, I realized how grateful I am for what I experienced in my family growing up. I had parents who loved me and were very intentional about giving us traditions that my five siblings and I looked forward to.
I remember this one in particular...
We all went to pick out the family Christmas tree, bought the tallest and most perfect one we could afford, and then held it outside the car with our cold, bare hands (no seatbelts or carseats in those days!). When we got it home, we listened to Mitch Miller Christmas carols on the turntable, made fudge and popcorn balls, and everyone participated in decorating the tree. It was a happy occasion.
Why are traditions so important? Because our emotional health is tied to emotional safety, and traditions have a way of helping to create a foundation that kids can stand on, activities or events they can count on year after year. As a kids' pastor, I encouraged many parents to establish some traditions in their families that their children (and they) would look forward to every year. The traditions don't need to cost a lot of money, they just need to be repeated and lifted up as a priority. The best thing about starting traditions is that it's never too late! Commit to doing things that will fill your kids' memory bank as well as their souls and you'll be on your way to living and leading an abundant life for your family's sake.
With our kids, we did annual camping trips to the same campground with the same group of people and created lasting memories that caused our children to want to do that with their kids. We have rented a beach house at the same time of year for several years now, and the kids, grandkids, and I all look forward to a long weekend of beach time, games, and laughs. We held annual family golf tournaments for years that my Dad would plan for the adult kids, spouses, and grandkids, and he handed out funny prizes and a roving trophy for the winners.
I know families who serve every year at food packing events for kids who are starving or who do annual block parties and parades with their neighbors. Some people have a tradition of going to Disneyland at certain times of year. Many observe Thanksgiving by building thankful paper trees in their homes or serving food to those less fortunate. Or they create game nights or movie nights that the kids and parents look forward to. And, of course, many have Christmas traditions that they enjoy each year.
The point is to come up with things that your family likes to do and then commit to consistency. We weren't always perfect at keeping up every tradition either, so if you try and fail...just try again!
Of course, the best traditions are faith traditions and the impact of them is eternal! By consistently building a tradition of spiritual disciplines, like reading the word of God together, praying about anything and everything, playing and singing spiritual hymns and songs, memorizing scripture or serving together (to name a few), you lay the foundation for emotional health that will carry your child through the storms of life. They will learn to trust that God is faithful, they will see and experience answers to their prayers, they will develop good spiritual disciplines, and they will feel loved by God no matter what.
Just remembering some of the things my family did together triggered a desire to call to my Mom to let her know how much I appreciated the traditions and the memories they created for us. We did not have 'things' that made us happy, but we had love, we had faith, and we had traditions we could count on. I hope I am as successful as my parents were with my own kids, making them feel loved by God and by me. That post I had written all those years ago generated several comments from people who had similar childhoods and from friends who appreciated the encouragement for their own children. Thankfully, my own children also commented in gratitude for their childhoods. Whew!
What about you? What are some traditions you and your family enjoy or you did as a child? I would love to know, so feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would also love to know how God is working in and through your life. And remember, life is relationships. Your greatest life is just ahead.
In His service,
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