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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Family Traditions

Last week I wrote about one particular family tradition that I hope all families will take advantage of, that of parent and child outings that we call Daddy/ Daughter, or Mom/Son dates. These “dates” are a fantastic tradition that allows a parent some quality one on one time with each of their children and eventually your kids will carry on this tradition when they have children of their own.
This week I want to talk about other traditions you can do as a family. Some of these traditions you probably already do or you have some other traditions you have started as a family. Keep doing them! Your traditions can and should be as special as your family is and reflect your family’s individuality. Many family professionals agree that most strong families have strong family traditions and these traditions reflect family interactions within the family unit, extended family, and the community at large.
Family traditions also provide a backdrop for good time and pleasant memories that the family puts in an “emotional back account” to be drawn on during hard times. This emotional bank account pays dividends twice: once when the deposit is made during the family activity or the acting out of the tradition as family connections are formed and deepened; then again during emotionally trying times as family connections are tested and strengthened. You might ask, “I agree family traditions are important, how do we develop them in our own family?” I am glad you asked.
Perhaps the easiest and most common family tradition is sharing a meal together. For most of us this is the evening meal, but for other families it can be breakfast. I have written about this tradition before so rather than review it again I will just suggest that you spend whatever energy you have to as a family to make this one happen. If you ask everyone to be prepared to discuss his or her day and perhaps something they are thankful for, this can be a very valuable tradition.
Most families celebrate birthdays, but have you ever thought of halfway celebrating half-birthdays? At the six-month mark for a family member’s birthday you make a half cake, buy (or make) a small gift, for half a day treat the honoree with special treatment and maybe sing half of “Happy Birthday”.
Here in the great Northwest, where we have a veritable cornucopia of outdoor activities available year round, start the tradition of “family activity day” so each Sunday (maybe after church), a different person in the family picks an activity to do together. It can be as elaborate as skiing or rock climbing, or as simple as a nature hike in a local patch of woods.
Speaking of church, as I mentioned several articles ago I do not intend to promote one religion over another or religion at all for that matter, however marriages and families that go to church more than once a month together are far more likely to be healthy than those that do not.
In keeping with this line of thought, may I suggest volunteering as a family for a cause everyone in the family agrees is important, such as feeding the homeless, working at the humane society or anyone of a hundred worthy causes around town that need the help. You will likely become closer working together and spending time together, and you may be more appreciative of your own family if you experience people who are not as lucky as you are, to have a wonderful, loving, family to love and rely on.
Tagline: Mark Altman is a speaker and leadership consultant with the Altman Leadership Center. Mark has completed graduate work in Marriage and Family Counseling and is working on a PhD in Leadership studies at Gonzaga University. He is happy to speak or provide a workshop for your organization and can be reached at

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