How Traditions Affect Your Identity as a Family

Mandy Block

December 13, 2023

Christmas was always a special time for me growing up. I really looked forward to the traditions we had. Growing up with parents who knew the importance of building a strong family identity, it was something my parents were very intentional with. Holiday traditions were a big way to establish our family values and build those memories that really feed into the growth of it. Holidays weren’t the only time we made memories of course. There is one tradition that has become a favorite tradition for my own children. 
As kids, my sisters and I knew that on any given night my parents could be tucking us into bed and surprise us by exclaiming, “Jammie Run!” This didn’t happen often, and we were never allowed to ask about it. We would pile into the car in our pajamas and head to the nearest drive through for fries and shakes. I loved those nights because we were together doing something out of the ordinary, but oh, so much fun! 
My sisters and I are all grown now and have families of our own. We all, with our husbands, have taken the GFI classes and seek to implement the principles in our own families. That like-mindedness among the cousins has been such a treasure. Between the four of us sisters, we have 28 kids. Most of us do “Jammie Runs” occasionally with our own kids. But on Christmas Eve night, we have been doing a collaborative “Jammie Run” to my parent’s house for popcorn and shakes. Obviously, the kids all know it’s coming at this point, but because it’s only once a year we all do it together, it is still a highlight. My Dad has been taking the opportunity to read the Christmas story or some other portion of scripture and teach into the kids while they snack away. It is such a blessing that this tradition has become multi-generational. What wasn’t a tradition at Christmas for me growing up has become a favorite one for the next generation. 
Traditions are a great way to engrave truths on the hearts of your kids. When they tie positive memories to the things of God, it will stick with them forever. A healthy family identity is a great foundation through which a child’s faith in God can grow. On the flip side, traditions can be rendered ineffective for a couple of reasons.

If kids are being continuously entertained by parents, this creates entitlement, which makes it more difficult to “surprise” them or do anything that they will truly appreciate. Kids become bored when “surprises” happen every day and each new one is expected to be bigger and better. This happens when parents feel they need to keep their kids happy. Parents can be well-meaning in this, but all too often, it robs the children of the opportunity to appreciate or be grateful. These “Jammie Runs” wouldn’t have been as special if we did them too often. 

There are some traditions that we have that aren’t as monumental such as weekly family nights, daily family prayer time, and Jon and me practicing couch time. Those traditions also bring our children a sense of immediate security and will become treasured memories later in life. Both kinds of traditions are important.

The second way traditions can be undermined is by being inconsistent. If you present a tradition to your kids (such as an advent countdown calendar) but don’t keep up with it, it will lose its meaning and you, as the parent, won’t be as trusted by your children. Kids will eventually look elsewhere for fulfillment or memory making ideas, and the family identity suffers. 
Take some time as a family this season to find out what traditions are special and embrace it. Also find out if there is a shortage of traditions in your family and brainstorm some ideas. Mom and Dad, step out there and go make some memories! It doesn’t always have to be something consistent, but you must consistently be making memories. You never know which moments will be deeply remembered by your kids. Sometimes less is more. Do what you can and be intentional about it. 
“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up,
just as you are now doing.”
I Thessalonians 5:11 ESV

To build a strong family identity means the members of the family look to each other for support, encouragement, common values and sense of purpose. Find out more about how to do this and why in the Mom’s Notes session, “Building Family Identity”

Building Family Identity PDF
Building Family Identity mp3
Mandy Block is a mother of four school age kids whom she homeschools. She was raised by parents who lead the Growing Kids God’s Way parenting class. She and her husband Jon have been married for 15 years and live on a small farm in Michigan. They have been leading Growing Families Int’l parenting classes for the past 13 years. Mandy has served as a Contact Mom for five years and enjoys encouraging moms from all over the world.