Whether it’s celebrating Chinese New Year with a plate full of rice cakes and other delicious delicacies or decorating the Christmas tree on the 1st of December, most families embrace tradition even if it’s as simple as a Sunday roast. However, what many of us do not realise is how essential these traditions are to the emotional development of children. Traditions offer quality time, relationship building, identity, security and memories that will last forever.
There is no wiser investment than spending quality time with your family; the profits stretch far beyond the wonderful memories you have to look back on. As traditions typically involve the whole family, it creates the opportunity for quality time which can unfortunately be so easy to forgo for many busy families. For the purposes of regular, quality family time, a sit-down meal every Sunday can do the trick. The practice of bonding over a meal has been a way for humans to connect since our ancestors used to do it around a fire. Over time, the many conversations and memories shared over the dinner table will create a sense of belonging for each family member which is especially important for the mini members.
A child gains their identity from their main life influencers. Who they are, their history, where they live and what is expected of them is all information a child gathers from their family (especially those under 5). Traditions act as a source for this information. For example if a child is born into a Christian family, the tradition of going to church every Sunday and praying before eating their meals will teach them about their identity through their family’s beliefs and values. The formation of identity is an on-going process however for children it can offer them a sense of self-worth as they begin to understand where they fit into the world and who they are.
Perhaps the most significant benefit of traditions is that they can provide structure and stability. The consistency of traditions promotes positive emotional development of children as they are provided with a foundation of stability that remains unwavering throughout various life changes. For example, moving to a new home can be daunting for the whole family but by continuing to deliver stability through traditions of a family dinner together every Sunday, it offers an element of comfort for the younger children as well as the whole family. Additionally performing a ‘ritual’ as a tradition before a stressful task can actually reduce anxiety levels and increase confidence for our little ones. For this reason, creating rituals for good luck from a young age may be very helpful for you child’s first day of school. It can be as simple as a “bear hug” that is given before bed to ‘make sure’ your little one doesn’t have bad dreams. The bear hug will then represent comfort and become a symbol of safety in times of need.
Along with benefiting the emotional development of children, research has found that families who engage in traditions report a stronger connection and unity than families that have not established rituals together. So if you haven’t quite established any traditions in your family yet, here is your chance and a few great reasons to start.