From tinsel to sparklers, we all have our own ways to celebrate special times with our families and traditions we look forward to sharing with our children. Not only are these events important to the adults who carry on tradition, but they develop some of the cornerstone concepts of Early Childhood Development.
Anel Annandale, Educational Psychologist and Mysmartkid Expert, says the celebration of family traditions is closely linked to the development of identity and self-esteem in young children. “It is absolutely important to establish and celebrate family traditions with your children,” she says. “We all have our own family traditions – whether big or small – and when we share these with our kids it gives them a sense of their history and where they come from as well as where they fit into the family structure.”
Annandale explains that in a time when most people live extremely busy lives and days are arranged around long working hours and rigid schedules, it is important to take the time to pause, reflect and focus on family. “The most amazing thing about celebrating family traditions together is how, at that time, we instinctively turn our attention to our loved ones and we just let the world go by for a while.” She adds that forming strong family bonds is extremely important for children. When traditions are celebrated, generations connect, either by spending time with loved ones or thinking and talking about those who have helped shape our lives.
Annandale says it is important to remember that you should never feel forced to carry on traditions. “Ask yourself why you are doing it. You are allowed to stop doing something if it doesn’t work for your family.” She adds that, especially in young families, it is also a good idea to blend or combine the traditions from both sides of the family in a way that is meaningful to you.
“Of course it is also important to create your own traditions,” says Annandale. “It doesn’t necessarily have to be big, annual events. It can be a dinner with your kids on a special day like your anniversary or commemorating a life change like the day they said their first word or lost their first tooth. Create your own traditions and celebrations. It will make your children realise that you are paying attention to their lives.”
Annandale suggests that you talk to your children at an age-appropriate level about traditions and why you celebrate certain things. Young kids won’t necessarily be able to understand the meaning of traditions, but they will appreciate the extra time with family, special attention from loved ones and doing fun activities like crafts centred on the event you are celebrating. “If your baby is too young to understand any of this, be sure to take lots of photographs or make a video of them during this precious time. As they get older, you will be able to show them that they were part of forming a special family tradition and this will strengthen their sense of identity.”
If your child asks questions about other traditions not celebrated in your home, Annandale says this is a great opportunity to talk to them about the differences between people and families. “Use this conversation as a starting block to explain to them why you value certain times and events and choose to celebrate those specific traditions.”
She says the most important thing to remember is never to force a tradition that doesn’t fit your family. “Relax and take it easy. Don’t celebrate something simply for the sake of celebration. Value the things and times that are important to you. That’s what tradition is all about.”