- The Women Who Came Before Us
- What is Special about You?
- Setting New Years Resolutions and Sticking with Them!
- Win with your Intuition
- Christmas Self Esteem - Giving the Gift of Self Worth, Self Confidence and Self Respect
- Breaking Down The Communication Barriers With Your Kids
- Tips for a Healthy Long-Distance Relationship
- Are You Raising Codependent Children?
- Helping Your Child With Autism Cope With School Anxiety
- Routines to Improve Concentration in Children
Why Traditions are Important and How to Start Your Own
Traditions enable us to celebrate the past and provide a legacy for the future. Not only a source of enjoyment, they serve as the glue that keeps families united from one generation to the next and across the miles. They can play an important role in helping children create and define a sense of family identity. At the same time, we must be willing to open them to the next generation's interpretation, allowing children to personalize them and eventually become their stewards.
While traditions vary, it's usually Mom who brings them to life each year – packing the picnic basket with each child's favorite treat, remembering who gets to hang a special ornament, making sure popcorn and other snacks are ready for family movie night. Mom is the emotional heart of the family, the keeper of the traditions, and the one who tends to the details.
Those same traditions can serve as a vital lifeline, especially for children coping with crisis or the death of a loved one. "Every year my mom would take me to the Nutcracker ballet," recalls Alexis. "We would have a special day together and go out to lunch." When her mother died from breast cancer, Alexis was passionate about maintaining her cherished tradition. Her father contacted Mommy's Light Lives On Fund® to help make that happen.
Mommy's Light is the nation's leading provider of bereavement support for children and teens whose mothers are terminally ill or have died by helping them continue cherished traditions they shared with their mothers, every year until age 18. (www.mommyslight.org)
As a mother, I share with other moms an intuitive sense about the power of traditions; yet, when my children were young, I wondered whether our family traditions were meaningful enough if I were to die. But after working for more than a decade with Mommy's Light's dedicated volunteers who have served hundreds of children and fulfilled more than 700 tradition requests, there are several things that I know to be true for the maternally bereaved, as well as for every family. Most importantly, any tradition that is embraced by children, no matter how simple, can stand the test of time.
• Traditions are timeless. Creating or maintaining traditions is an ideal way for families to honor the past, celebrate the present and build the future.
• Traditions are a natural way to get family members, particularly children, engaged in a positive way. While some children and adults shy away from conversation, familiar rituals are a comfortable and joyful way for everyone to actively engage with each other.
• Traditions are universally accepted and transcend race, religion, gender, culture and economic status.
Traditions serve as a positive vehicle that assists children, teens and adults in maintaining healthy emotional connections to family members, especially to a loved one who has died or is away. Children often look forward to special occasions and may experience a secondary loss if family traditions are discontinued when a loved one is no longer there.
Creating Your Family Traditions
If you want to start a family tradition or resurrect a dormant one, the good news is that the process is fun, easy and rewarding! The simple truth is that anything done repeatedly with love and joy becomes a family tradition.
Being together is the most important aspect. Whether it is snuggling up for a good movie, enjoying Mom's special kielbasa with caraway seeds, or going back-to-school shopping, every one of the traditions Mommy's Light has arranged has centered around spending time together. Here are several tips to help you create or continue memorable family traditions:
1. Involve your children. Ask what they enjoy doing with you that they would like to continue. You may be surprised to learn they have a list of favorite activities that they already consider cherished traditions. Let their imaginations lead the way!
2. It's in the details. Paying attention to the fine points imbues ordinary acts with special meaning. Every child Mommy's Light serves remembers the most intimate details of his or her favorite tradition. They serve as the anchors that evoke familiar sights, sounds, smells and memories from year to year. For instance, Max, who loved to plant flowers with his mom, made it a point to continue the tradition of planting blue flowers, because his mom always chose blue, his favorite color.
3. Stress less. I used to think of traditions as being centered around significant holidays, but kids have a broader view. In fact, it can be easier and less stressful to enjoy your tradition when life is less busy.
4. Maintain consistency. We all are busy, and it's easy to put things off, especially during the holidays. Schedule your tradition each year at the anticipated time to maintain continuity and consistency.
5. Talk about special memories during your tradition to help strengthen the connection to your loved one.
Years after her mother died, Alexis says, "Even though my mom is not here to experience it with me anymore, going to the Nutcracker every year is a way that I keep her memory alive. Mommy's Light helps me honor her memory and celebrate her life by continuing the tradition that she started."
I now know not to worry about the richness of our family traditions. I've embraced the changes my children have introduced – and the new holiday music! I take great joy in celebrating our traditions every year, and suspect they will remain long after I am gone.
For more information and free tradition and bereavement resources, visit www.mommyslight.org.
Laura Munts is President of the Board of Directors and past Executive Director of Mommy's Light Lives On Fund® and mother of two teens.
Mommy's Light has fulfilled more than 700 traditions since its inception. Movie night tops the list for the children the organization serves, but there are plenty of unique ideas. Here are some of the most frequently requested cherished traditions that may inspire your family:
A trip to the zoo
Going on a picnic
Arts and crafts
Visiting a museum
Laura Munts is President of the Board of Directors of Mommy’s Light Lives On Fund®. She previously served as the organization’s Executive Director, guiding Mommy's Light through its incorporation in October 1997 until March 2010. Prior to joining Mommy’s Light, she served as Assistant General Counsel for Comcast Corporation and as an associate in the law firm of Ballard, Spahr, Andrews & Ingersoll. She earned her J.D. from Georgetown University Law School and her undergraduate degree from Franklin & Marshall College. She also has a master's degree in Applied Psychology from the University of Santa Monica and is an ordained minister. In December 2005, People magazine recognized Laura as a "Woman Who Makes a Difference" for her work with Mommy's Light. She has made numerous media appearances, speaking and writing about maternal bereavement in children, bereavement education and the power of traditions. Laura and her husband enjoy traveling, skiing and laughing with their two teenage children.
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