Choose Connection through Traditions

Dad and child playing with paper boats near a lake.

Everyone can benefit from good traditions, especially children. Traditions, whether they be family customs or part of a larger community or heritage, help create shared identity. The repetition and predictability of traditions can foster feelings of security in a world that can seem chaotic and fearful.

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Traditions are more than just routines or habits. Traditions help build connections with others and with the past. We repeat them to create good memories and a sense of belonging. Traditions often celebrate or teach values, such as kindness or teamwork.

Some traditions are handed down by previous generations. Others arise spontaneously. Many people create new traditions to bring together family or friends in ways that work best for them.

Below, three families describe simple traditions they have built with their children. These examples of traditions may inspire you as you consider what customs you want to foster with your own loved ones.

Food Traditions

Family eating food

Raising a blended family of 8 children was challenging for Neal and Becky Chandler of North Carolina, United States. They stumbled upon a tradition that made life a little easier—and tastier.

“Neal and I were both teachers, so we worked all week while the children were in school,” says Becky. “By Friday evening, we were all exhausted. Five or six of the younger children were still at home. We couldn’t afford to take them out to eat very often. A couple of times on a Friday, we ordered carryout pizza and threw together a salad. It worked so well, we decided to keep doing it.”

For at least 10 years, the Chandlers had a standing order at the pizzeria. “My son Brad loved coming to pick up dinner with me on Friday nights,” Becky recalls. “He remembers holding the warm pizza boxes on his lap all the way home and smelling them and thinking about them. It was a fun way to end the week and catch our breath and be together.”

“We even kept it going when kids came home from college,” Becky says. “Years later, two of the children flew in from separate parts of the country for my husband’s birthday. They each went to our pizza place and unexpectedly found each other there. We still enjoy going and even took our grandchildren last summer.”

Bedtime Rituals

Bedtime Traditions

Heather McClellan of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, has always enjoyed snuggling with her children at bedtime. Nearly two years ago, it became a formal tradition. “When COVID started, we couldn’t go out anymore. Each night, we curled up together. I started to teach them songs. Sometimes I’d even make visual aids.”

“Rexy, my youngest, really loves songs,” she continues. “He likes to change the words to ‘You Are My Sunshine’ to ‘You Are My Mommy.’ My daughter Pyper and I rewrite song lyrics for fun too, even though we forget them the next day.”

“I believe this has been a valuable connection to have, especially during this time with COVID-19,” reflects Heather. “Our discussions of fear and anxiety became more about songs and fun memories. It’s been a stress relief.”

When Heather is away, the nightly ritual passes to her husband, Rich, or their two older children, Felicity and Rory (who has since gone away for college). “Felicity usually plays the guitar and sings with them. Rory would sing or visit with them about their week. For everyone, it’s a bonding time with the two youngest members of our family.”

Working Together

working together

For the past few years, Justin and Angela Baker of Ohio, United States, have overseen a weekly activity with their 6 children. “We do Saturday chores,” says Justin. “Everybody cleans and vacuums their bedrooms, puts away laundry, and tidies one section of the house. Sometimes there’s a special family job, like stacking wood for the fireplace.”

The tradition of Saturday chores came from Angela’s family. Her parents both worked outside the home, and weekends were when they could all work together. Now the Bakers have adapted the practice for their own lifestyle.

“Everyone gets moving in the mornings at different times, and that’s fine,” Justin continues. “They just have to get their share done. We play upbeat music to make it more fun. The children have to negotiate some shared responsibilities among themselves, which can be both good and bad!”

What motivates them to stay on task? “Once we sign off on their chores, they can play their weekend video games,” he answers. Then he explains,” Saturday chores teach the philosophy of work before play. They are learning how things can go when they are focused and diligent.”

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About the Author
Sunny Jane Morton teaches family history to global audiences as a speaker and writer. She is a contributing editor at Family Tree Magazine (U.S.) and content manager for Your DNA Guide. She is co-author of How to Find Your FamilyHistory in U.S. Church Records and author of Story of My Life: A Workbook for Preserving Your Legacy. Find her at