Roasting chestnuts on an open fire, decking the halls with boughs of holly, kissing under the mistletoe, cuddling up for stories and hot chocolate in the glow of the fire and the twinkle of the Christmas lights are just some Christmas traditions and rituals carried out by many. Sharing these rituals and traditions with our children can really add an extra sparkle to what is already a magical time for them. This year Christmas will be different in a variety of ways however for many families the most significant difference will be in who we can spend the holiday period with. Gathering together with family and friends will have its challenges whether they live in the next street, the next county or indeed in a different country! So embracing as many of our traditions as possible will be all the more important.
For children, participating in family traditions enhances their sense of belonging and really makes them feel like they are a part of something very special. You may not think your family history is fascinating but your child will. The decisions made in the past contribute to the people we are today and the holidays are an opportunity to enrich your child’s life with stories, memories and anecdotes from your childhood and indeed the lives lived by your parents and grandparents. If you are lucky enough to still have grandparent or even great grandparents in your lives then make time for their stories and tales to be shared with your children. All the better if this can be in person but stories can be shared over the internet, in letters or just chatting about your memories.
People have been moving to different parts of the country and the world for generations so it stands to reason that children will find their family history interesting. Maybe there was a famous person in their family or perhaps someone took part in an important historical event or maybe their great aunt was famous for making big splashes jumping in puddles!
The stories and memories shared over the Christmas holidays can form part of your family tree. Think of using some of the time available to work on a family tree with your children. Gather old photos and label who is in each snap. When you look at old photographs share special memories. Tell your children all about the other people in the pictures. Add all the information you have about what family members did, liked and who they loved! Each generation is made up of the previous generation’s efforts, failures, successes, travels, struggles and accomplishments. Our history helps us be who we are today. Maybe start a new photo album or scrapbook with your children and explain that they will have this to share with their children in years to come.
Cooking and sharing food is such an important part of Christmas and cooking with your children is another way to celebrate your family heritage. Cook some recipes from your past and share with them the stories behind them as you do. Remember to also cook present day family favourites as these dishes will be the heritage of the future generations of your family.
Sing an old song, teach them to play a tune or curl up and read a favourite book from your childhood to them. It can be easy to take your history for granted and we can often assume that our children understand why we value a particular item or activity. It is so important that we talk to our children and share the stories behind our traditions. Why is one song so important to your family and not to your neighbour’s family? Your heritage and traditions illustrate the importance and meaning of family. Remember each family has their own. What are yours? Will you share them?
Top Tips for Sharing Family Traditions
- Sharing family rituals and traditions with our children is important.
- Participating in family traditions enhances our children’s sense of belonging.
- Most children are fascinated by their family history and love hearing about their parents or grandparents childhood.
- Encourage grandparents and other relative to share their stories and when face to face isn’t possible use letters, phone calls, recorded messages and online contact for sharing.
- Great if family story involves being part of an important historical even but remember it is the small, simple facts that count such as a favourite book or song.
- Spend time with your children looking at old photographs, add names to the faces and share all the information you have about what family members did, liked and who they loved!
- Cook some recipes from your past and tell your children the stories behind the dishes as you cook.
- Cook present day family favourites as these dishes will be the heritage of the future generations of your family.
- Spend some time making a family tree. The stories and memories can form part of it. Use photos, drawings and words in your family tree. This can become an heirloom to pass to the next generation.
- Our heritage and traditions illustrate the importance and meaning of family and remember each family has their own.
This article was contributed by Tusla PPFS and PAUL Partnership. Both are members of Parenting Limerick, a network of parenting and family support organisations.