The “traditional” family is now only one of a variety of family structures that includes single parent families, two career families, biracial families, blended families with part-time and full-time stepchildren with parents of different religions or cultures. While family composition has been redefined, the basic needs of human beings within a family to love and be loved, to cherish others and to feel cherished in return have not changed.
In today’s ever changing society, a dependable family environment can provide a safe haven of security and emotional closeness for children and adults alike; a place where family members are able to develop their own identity and learn how to establish and maintain permanent caring relationships.
Parents recognise the value of a strong family unit. However, it becomes difficult to sustain a feeling of closeness when parents work long hours and children are involved in many activities outside the home. In addition, television often replaces meaningful conversation and results in family members losing touch with one another.
Establishing family rituals and traditions is one effective way to strengthen family ties while meeting the diverse physical, social, mental, and spiritual needs of its members. Traditions can become an important facet of everyday life, transforming ordinary events into more meaningful and satisfying interactions.
Converting ordinary routines into meaningful traditions can take little more time than is already spent on these activities. The first step in developing family traditions is to review a typical day, hour by hour and identify the different interactions that already take place. What occurs at mealtimes? What happens when individuals leave home or return home? What are the underlying roles and responsibilities of each family member?
Once we have a better understanding of our daily routine, change can be initiated by focusing in on one activity. By talking with our spouse or child we can identify changes that would make an activity feel more worthwhile. For example, some parents find their morning routine is more satisfying when they have some time together before the children wake up. Other families find that mealtime is more satisfying when the family prepares the meal together and the television is turned off while eating. Families who do not usually eat together can establish a tradition of sharing events that happened to the parents and children during the day.
For family members who do not live together throughout the week, developing weekend rituals can create a sense of belonging. Parents and children can look forward to planned activities, such as visiting friends or relatives or cooking a special breakfast together. Annual events, such as birthday and holiday celebrations, can be given special meaning by incorporating each person’s ideas on how to make the occasion meaningful.
Families need to be nurtured in order to grow and develop. Without continuous attention, family relationships can become stagnant and may fail to provide each member with a desired level of satisfaction. Just as we water our plants, maintain our cars and take care of our pets, we need to work at maintaining strong, healthy family ties that will increase the happiness and well being of the entire family, now and in the future. Developing rituals and traditions out of ordinary, daily routines can help families transition together from one activity to another and provide a feeling of continuity and security to all family members throughout their lives.
…with Thelma Asantewaa