Creating Family Traditions

Do you ever wonder where traditions start?

Well, someone starts them! Summer camps like Kennolyn know a lot about traditions and they are not as hard to start as you might think.  With that in mind, here are some ideas to create family holiday traditions that will bring your family closer together.

  1. Commit to starting the tradition, regardless of your family’s initial response. How bad can it get? If it doesn’t work you can rethink it or abandon it but if you have an idea, stick to it and don’t let an initial lack of family buy in dissuade you. Of course, if you tell your teenagers that your new holiday tradition is to read Albanian poetry while wearing lederhosen and constructing a Christmas tree out of Popsicle sticks and dental floss, you should EXPECT them to be unhappy. So that leads to our next suggestion which is…
  2. Start simple. Choose a movie that you know is appealing to most of your family members, decide a time, send a text or write a note to all your family, and tell them to be there. Add some popcorn and hot chocolate and maybe you started a tradition and maybe you just watched a movie. Either way, you win because you gathered your family. Tips for choosing a movie that will stand the test of time and go on year after year: something you know your kids like but you have never watched with them. Something funny that they will be surprised that you picked (even stretching your comfort zone is OK depending on the age of your kids). Or a movie that has some relevance to your family (Harry Potter series is great for this, since you have probably watched one or more of these or read one or more of the books.) Other easy to start traditions: breakfast for dinner on the first night of school vacation, karaoke night on the day after your favorite holiday, hiking or biking on a set day, a trip to a favorite ice cream shop like ‘Monday at Mariannes’, teach mom to play video games night, etc, etc.  Just pick one and do it.
  3. Include everyone. Don’t let anyone (including adults) change plans and drop out for poor reasons. Urge everyone to stick to the agreement to get together.
  4. Decide on your policy regarding screens at family traditions. You know this will be an issue so just decide up front if your new tradition is tech free or not and keep expectations clear.
  5. Once you find something that everyone had fun doing, do it again, and again. By year 3 it’s a tradition and you will be amazed how much kids will remember and look forward to your holiday tradition. Whether the idea has been going on its third year or 75th, we marvel at how much our campers look forward to traditions here.

My family’s story around this topic shows how things go from one off events to becoming traditions. One year (we had 2 high school freshmen and a college kid at this point) we decided to watch one of my favorite movies on Thanksgiving. It happens to be a Thanksgiving-themed movie. We all sat down and the kids enjoyed the movie, especially the one very inappropriate scene that I had forgotten about. I was always a stickler about bad language in our house and here was Steve Martin swearing and screaming on screen. After the awkwardness passed, we all started laughing hysterically. Watching that movie has become such a tradition that we have another tradition now which is to argue over whether it started as a Thanksgiving or Christmas tradition.  (Spoiler alert: it’s a Thanksgiving tradition, sorry Grace.) The text telling our family the date and time of this year’s viewing of the movie was sent on October 16th.  They are all going to be there.

-Andrew Townsend

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