Parenting can be an experiment, and there’s no magic formula for getting it right. You have 18 years to teach your children core values and encourage them to be good people. And once your children leave home and start making a life for themselves, it can be difficult to schedule time to see each other. They’ll probably prioritize their careers and the family they may have created with their spouse and children.
If you’re afraid of missing your child as they get older, there are some steps you can take to ensure family becomes one of their core values. Then, hopefully, as they get older, they’ll remember to include grandma and/or grandpa in the family fun.
One such step is creating family traditions. They might not understand them completely as little kids. They might roll their eyes as teenagers. However, chances are they will cherish those memories as adults. And believe it or not, they might continue those traditions too! Here are four ways to create some family traditions for generations to enjoy.
1. Schedule Family Vacations
Whether it’s summer at the lakehouse or winter at the cabin, family vacations have magnetic powers to pull everyone together. Seeing how kids grow up, and parents and grandparents grow older, in the same setting is very special. Some families have fixed weekends blocked off on their calendar each year for a family trip.
You could do a skiing or Disney trip with your siblings and their children. But if you’re tired of gambling on different hotels each time, you could invest in a vacation property. This eliminates the guesswork about getting the best rate at hotels and being dissatisfied with the amenities. It’s also a way to secure a space for your family to have for years to come.
Owning a vacation property can be affordable if you choose home co-ownership. There are many options to choose from across the world. Returning to the same location year after year elicits nostalgia and helps create those prized family traditions. Groups of friends or family members can split the cost. You could enjoy a small beach property or luxurious villa for a fraction of what it would cost to buy it alone.
2. Take Family Photos
“Cringe…” is what your pre-teens may groan now, but one day they will appreciate family photos. If matching outfits are asking for too much, at least try coordinated clothes. Decide on a color palette and let everyone flaunt their creativity. If you’re planning a family cruise, for instance, consider a nautical theme. Grandparents can wear white, and all the other family members show up in shades of blue. This way no one is forced to buy matching pajamas.
It’s important to remember to take photos when you get everyone together, but they’re also necessary to document important times of year. Most parents take “first day of school” photos each year. You could put a fun twist on it by interviewing your kids on the last day of school to document fun memories. They can share who was their favorite teacher, best friend, and favorite subject that year. Even if they don’t have a lot to say, the missing teeth and the changing fashion make priceless memories.
Another tradition you could start is to take “now and then” pictures of the same people in the same setting, but in different years. It could be with holiday lights, a pumpkin patch, or in the cherry blossom season. Photos can be bittersweet when loved ones pass away, but the fact that they are part of your albums (or cloud storage) is so important.
3. Volunteer as a Family
Family traditions don’t just have to revolve around gifts, spending, and eating. You can create priceless memories by volunteering together. It could be running a winter clothing drive or working in a soup kitchen with your house of worship. Even without a religious affiliation, you can collect toys for kids in the hospital. Or you could have the kids help make hygiene kits for the homeless in the inner city. Once you start doing this on a regular basis, it becomes a family tradition everyone enjoys.
Kids love hands-on activities and can see exactly how donations are used. Contact your local food pantry to see if your family can volunteer on a weekly or monthly basis. Something small, but consistent is key. Not everything has to be transactional or for some personal benefit. If you are able to instill this love of community service in your children, you deserve a pat on the back.
It is also a great legacy to leave behind. Some families donate so much time and money to causes they love, that centers and libraries are named after them. Generations can continue serving that cause in their own unique way. That is a family tradition that keeps on giving and living long after you do.
4. Celebrate the Holidays Together
Holidays are a great opportunity to carry on traditions — and make new ones. Children in families going through divorce or separation can still enjoy traditions, even if they spend a holiday with just one parent. Blended families with a new “bonus” mom or dad can carry on some older traditions that everyone enjoys, and start their own special new ones.
Holiday traditions do not need to be expensive or elaborately planned. Kids might just enjoy jumping into a pile of raked leaves every Thanksgiving. Or they might look forward to the annual paper snowflake competition. All you need are some scissors and folded white paper or paper towels. No two snowflakes will be alike, and that will be a beautiful lesson in itself.
It’s also easier to create family traditions when everyone schedules a holiday to host. This way it is not a lot of work or expense for one family on every holiday. For example, you could have Thanksgiving at Nana’s and the 4th of July barbecue at uncle Malik’s house. However, it’s also important to note a different family member will eventually have to carry on that torch as family dynamics change.
Family traditions can be very grounding experiences for children of all ages. Your traditions can be simple or even silly. As long as they bring the family together for some smiles, they are worth continuing and cherishing.