When asked what comes to mind when people hear the word “traditions”, most will immediately conjure up a mental picture of a past, holiday time with family. Wonderfully, holiday times are some of the easiest ways to build or reinforce traditions and relationships in a family.
As it stands, traditions are the backbone of our family culture. They are handed down through customs, practices and stories from generation to generation. Those routines were carried forward (sometimes in a modified version) until they arrive in “today”, as the traditions that we know.
Most of us were handed our traditions by the family leadership. Either the Patriarch or Matriarch of long-ago established a routine that was adopted by their descendants. During the holidays, these traditions show up in what days and where holidays are celebrated; who brings what; what dress code is acceptable; who is invited and (even) who is not.
What happens when those traditions need changed, to accomodate an expanded or modified family unit?
If you have ever dated someone for any period of time or have married, you know that you entered a series of family traditions that did not easily align with the ones that were familiar to you.
When I married my second husband, his family celebrated Christmas on Christmas Eve. For me, Christmas was always celebrated on Christmas morning – and so, that was a change for me and for my young sons.
We chose to adopt the “Fritch Family Tradition” of going to my husband’s parents on Christmas Eve. After enjoying the dinner that his mother had lovingly prepared for us, we shared presents and family laughter. We’d then head home for a good night’s sleep, a Christmas morning of our own gifts to each other (the kids and us) and a Christmas dinner at home
We blended a family and blended traditions, just that easily. My intention was to create lasting, HAPPY memories for Denny’s parents AND for our kids – and that easy change was part of achieving that. It was my choice to make it easy and uncomplicated.
One of the things that I have learned in working with singles and couples who are struggling to have the happy relationships that they most want, is that many people sweat the small stuff. There is a saying about not sweating the small stuff — and most of it IS small stuff.
Sometimes, blending family traditions is not as easy as it was for us. My children were younger and more easily adopted a new set of traditions. Sometimes older children have a more difficult time making the change , being already “locked into” their own tradition-comfort-zone.
Traditions are only good as they serve the basic needs of the family unit. Should they not, they can and should be changed.
One of my clients recently wanted to change her family’s traditions again – having twice changed them in the last few years. Her children (now teenagers) became angry at that idea of another change. “Where are OUR traditions?” her one son demanded of her? “We just get used to ONE thing for a couple of years and then you want to change it again!” Another change in traditions was the last thing that her kids desired.
If you get “push-back” at a chosen change, take note and do what you can to restore the original tradition. You can seek to make it more magical this year, to satisfy your OWN need for change or growth – just keep the “bones” of the traditions in place and enhance them gently. This allows people to more easily adjust and will help in creating a happier family holiday experience..
Now, as our children have grown older and married into other families – there comes a new need for us to adjust to their needs. They are now in the stage of blending some new traditions into their own – and we do our best to make that transition as easy on them as possible..
As parents of adult children or parents raising children in a blended or divorced family scenario, it’s important to stay fluid in accepting that our children may not always be with us, as in previous years. Things change, and they are finding their own way to navigate these new traditions and meld them as their own.
Sometimes we have a child or couple missing from our traditional family gathering and sometimes we are all together. There is a “give and take” that we respect between families – an important component of not only HAPPY, blended families, but of the expanded families that our adult children now maintain as their own.
Be accepting and stay fluid this year, in navigating any new demands on your own holiday traditions. This is the Season Of Love.
Seek to understand the needs of your family members, and feel the joy of peace that this season heralds.