This year marks my transition into an empty nest. And, I’ll be honest, I am ready in some ways, and, so not ready in others. As I write, one child will be officially moving out in less than ten days, and the other is making plans to leave before the end of the year. Contemplating the inevitableness of their departure, I have found myself thinking about some of the purposes of family traditions. Here are just a few:
Family traditions convey values. As a family who tries to live grounded in our faith, the precepts and guidance provided in the Bible should always influence our traditions. These values support how we work, celebrate, and worship together. While I know that this is present in my family life, I hope that, as a family, we can address this purpose more intentionally as we embark on this new phase of life.
Family traditions provide emotional, physical, and spiritual support. In a world inundated by ideological ideals so far removed from a Biblical worldview, those whose walk of faith runs counter to these secular norms need space and place to come and be understood, accepted, and loved for that faith. In my own family, I try to create this space and place supported by the Biblical ideals of love and service to others, whether they share our worldview or not, as we are all called to reflect the light of Christ to others.
Family traditions provide a sense of identity. Again, in a world where identity politics have become the birthplace of tribalism and rivalry, families more than anything need the sense of identity provided by a collective that remembers the unique history, experience, and worldview of the family and each individual. In turn, family identity provides confidence and the ability to understand the role of individuals within the collective of both the family and society.
Finally, family traditions create memories. Memories provide us with our story, a sense of time, and a safety net. According to Dr. Shahram Heshmat (2015), in a Psychology Today post, the most vivid memories are the ones we associate with strong feelings or emotions. Family traditions that intentionally seek to stir emotions related to safety, warmth, joy, and happiness create memories that sustain us for years to come, particularly when we need to be buoyed in a storm. Of course, some memories will be created by struggles, loss, and discord, but the more memories created with love and service to each other, the better each individual will weather the hard times.
I sincerely hope that my family will continue to honor many of the family traditions we currently have. I also hope that my family will engage in thoughtful and intentional discussions about how to create new and purposeful traditions. Without a doubt, as my family grows and matures in the next few years, we will have to use our imaginations to accommodate new jobs, new locations, and new members. I am confident that if we keep Christ central in our family life, the traditions will emerge as intentional and life-sustaining.
We would love to hear about your family traditions and how you intentionally support and sustain values and create memories. Please share in the comments below!
Watch for next week’s post on Lessons from Family Camp!
Contributed by Liz
- Heshmat, S. (2015, Oct. 8). Why Do We Remember Certain Things, But Forget Others? The experience of emotion enhances our memories. Psychology Today. Retrieved on July 21, 2020 from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/science-choice/201510/why-do-we-remember-certain-things-forget-others