Christine Treski, LMFT

With the holidays quickly approaching, many of us are already beginning to plan our get-togethers with family and friends. For this reason, sometimes “the most wonderful time of the year” often is also the most stressful time of the year. If you are in charge of the family and social calendar in your household and you feel mounting pressure around the holidays, it may be worthwhile to evaluate and change some of your holiday traditions.

When is it a good time to change?

  • If you feel pressured to do things a certain way, simply because it is “how we’ve always done it.”
  • If you often find yourself feeling overburdened with work, but underappreciated for the efforts you are making.
  • You feel as though you are going through the motions, however you are not experiencing joy and uplifting energy from the experience.
  • Family dynamics have changed – perhaps there is a divorce, death of a loved one, or you have blended into a new family constellation.

If you find yourself identifying with the above statements then it is time to consider a change. As time passes, old traditions may not seem suitable for you and your family, or may no longer reflect values you hold dear or want to foster in your children.

How to create new traditions

Creating new traditions can be a powerful way to reclaim a connection to yourself and your loved ones and so it is best done with others who will be involved. This will allow everyone to feel connected to the practice itself. Here’s how to get started:

First, identify what you already do that counts as a tradition. Create a list or a timeline of usual events and review it item by item. If you are a blended family, be sure to catalog traditions for all sides of the family.

Ask yourselves: Is this tradition serving us well? Is the payoff work the effort? Who involved with it values it and for what reason? With these questions, you will discover there are things to keep up with, and things you can let go of.

When you discover things to alter, it is time to make some intentional choices. This is the most exciting and rewarding part! Here are some important things to keep in mind as you craft new ideas:

Family traditions are part of the “language” of a family, serving as a shorthand and symbolic way of relating that everyone understands. For example, if you’re your family connects with humor, incorporate something lighthearted. Choose ideas that capture the essence of your family.

Look to the past. Sometimes new can mean revitalizing or remembering something from the past. Allow happy memories or meaningful family events to serve as inspiration. Perhaps there are cultural or ethnic histories to honor through food, music, or rituals.

It is important to not overburden yourselves. If you discovered you do too much for a holiday, sometimes getting rid of a few obligations is enough change to breathe new life into the rest of your standing traditions.

Creating something new with your loved ones is a wonderful bonding activity that will last for years to come, so ask for input and incorporate ideas that several individuals identify with.

What ever your family make-up–blended, family-of-choice, or multi-generational–traditions communicate and support a family’s belief system. They are powerful ways to foster stability, security, and a sense of belonging for all involved. So as you enter into this holiday season, remember that experiencing genuine connection with your loved ones should be a part of whatever traditions you follow.