Wholeness Healing Today

The Value of Tradition

We are entering a time when many of us have traditions in which we partake. As you are making decisions regarding your priorities and what you can and cannot do this season, consider the benefits of participating in your traditions or maybe even creating some new traditions.

Traditions and rituals are patterns that we do over and over again: same patterns, same times. This could be daily, weekly, monthly, or seasonally. They may be universal patterns or they may be unique to each family. Research shows that families with the strongest ties also have the most traditions and rituals in their lives. This is for several reasons.

Traditions establish family ties to the past and ground us to the present. This gives us a sense of belonging and connectedness. Linking with past generations maintains continuity of strong family identity. People with strong interest and connection to their past also have strong family ties. These ties establish commitment to each other due to the time spent together (because of the traditions) which strengthens over the years because more time is spent together.

Rituals give families a sense of predictability. For instance, I know my parents like to eat regularly at 12:00 noon for their lunch and at 6:00 for their evening meal. I know that if I drop by around that time, they will be eating and I will join them. This has been the truth since I was a small child. And I also know that my grandparents and their parents were the same way. I can follow the thread through the generations. And it connects me to my parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. This small ritual can be further heightened by looking at its impact. Regular mealtimes provide predictability for children on a daily basis. This gives children daily routine. It brings order into the day and into the family. This can be further anchored by making sure that you eat together during the mealtimes, providing children with not only the knowing of when food will be served, but that they will also be sitting with family during that time. If we establish rituals in our families, for our children, we help to provide identity, security, predictability and consistency for them.

Rituals establish predictable boundaries and children need predictability and they also need boundaries. The repetition provides your children with the security of knowing what is expected and helps to build a sense of responsibility. If you grew up in a family who had difficult times, it may be that the rituals and the traditions that you participated in actually helped you through life in a better way. It gave your chaotic world a sense of orderliness. You knew certain things would happen at certain times and that sense of predictability calms one in the midst of chaos.

Research done at George Washington University shows that children do better in households where ritual is established and preserved, even if family stresses such as illness, divorce or other difficulties are present.

Establish mealtime rituals (such as sitting down together to eat), bedtime rituals, chore rituals and birthday traditions. Get everyone involved, giving each person responsibilities which build their sense of responsibility, self-esteem, and belonging to the family.

Traditions provide a foundation to keep memories alive, giving the elders an opportunity to tell the stories of the past, and others the chance to listen to the stories of how things were done years ago.

This brings those in the present that sense of belonging to the “whole” extended family. It establishes a time for the story-telling, the recounting of memories, which further ties the family together.

Traditions allow families to have something to look forward to, plan, to be part. Children mark time through the big events in their lives. Traditions serve as familiar anchors, giving children something they can depend on. So if it is predictable, family members save that date, make the time, and show up more often. You can create small, simple rituals or they can be elaborate. They do not have to cost a lot of money, but they bring people together, establish family time and ties, and keep family coming back for more. And isn’t that what we want with our family?

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  • Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker
    Licensed Independent Mental Health Practitioner

  • Janie Pfeifer Watson, LICSW, is the founder and director of Wholeness Healing Center, a mental health practice in Grand Island, Nebraska with remote sites in Broken Bow and Kearney. Her expertise encompasses a broad range of areas, including depression, anxiety, attachment and bonding, coaching, couples work, mindfulness, trauma, and grief. She views therapy as an opportunity to learn more about yourself as you step more into being your authentic self. From her perspective this is part of the spiritual journey; on this journey, she serves as a mirror for her clients as they get to know themselves—and, ultimately, to love themselves.


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