Connecting Through Family Traditions

By Kristen Duke

Family traditions provide an opportunity to connect as a family, not only in the here and now, but the memories last for years and year and provide stability and joy for our family to look back on. 

Sometimes that can feel like a lot of pressure, to find that perfect activity that will create the warmth we are looking for, and I think oftentimes we over think it.

I despise crafts with all of the intricate pieces and mess making. Each year around Christmas, I’ve felt a little pang when I see others crafting, and especially creating gingerbread houses, because it is NOT MY THING.  I know that so many love it, and it brings that connection and nostalgia, and at times I have felt bad that I’m not “that mom” and I have to remind myself that I bring other festive activities to the table with my family.

I love holidays, and I love getting into the colors of each holiday throughout the year, dressing my family up, taking a themed picture, and for many it’s too overwhelming to take a family picture every 5 years. We all have different love languages that play out in their own unique way.

As my kids have grown up, and now with a handful of teenagers, I’ve wanted to look outward and create a family tradition of service. Two years ago, I got dollar store Santa hats for my crew of 6, and we waltzed down the road to the local retirement home, and we walked the halls singing Christmas carols. It felt very uncomfortable, even for me, an extreme extrovert, to knock on the doors and ask if we could sing in each room, and carry on a conversation as well. I can only imagine how uncomfortable it made my children. 

But I believe in encouraging them to press on with the discomfort, to get to the other side of the greater good. The joy on the faces of those we sang to was inexpressible, many who didn't often have visitors. I want my children to push beyond their levels of discomfort to think about how they can serve others, and THAT's a family tradition that I truly hope sticks. 

I wondered how we could do that this year with COVID, bring joy to the elderly, they have been the most isolated, and I think of my sweet 96 year old grandmother in a care facility in another state, and I thought...we could walk the premises of the location and sing OUTSIDE their windows. We’re having to be creative and think outside the box this year with the pandemic.

Beyond those BIG things, all of the little things add up to create memories. I remember chatting with a friend years ago and she confided that she hates holidays because she just doesn’t get into them. I suggested that it can be as simple as food coloring in their milk, something different, unexpected, out of the ordinary. That is what our kids remember. 

So while I may not have many traditions that carry on from year to year in my family, I hope they remember those “one off” things we’ve done, a tradition of family togetherness and joy. Now that’s a tradition I can get behind each year.

Kristen Duke grew up in Texas and Louisiana, and now raising her family in the mountains of Colorado. As a former early morning seminary teacher, she loves teenagers, and is striving to help parents feel more hopeful in raising teens on her instagram @KristenDukeChats. With two sons on/preparing for missions and two girls at home, she’s loving mothering the BIG KIDS.

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