I've found a new favorite parenting book, and it's so delightful and whimsical that my only complaint is that there are too many wonderful ideas to do them all.
When I received The Book of New Family Traditions to review, I expected a compilation of typical family traditions -- some fun mealtime ideas, some fun ways to list thanks on Thanksgiving, nightly prayers to say together and so on.
This giant book offers so much more than that.
While you'll find lots of lovely rituals for mealtimes, Thanksgiving, bedtime and so on, you also get a feeling for why traditions matter so much to children and how to make them part of a happy family life together.
As author Meg Cox explains, rituals do ten good things for children:
- Impart a sense of identity.
- Provide comfort and security.
- Help to navigate change.
- Teach values.
- Pass on ethnic or religious heritage.
- Teach practical skills.
- Solve problems.
- Keep alive a sense of departed family memories.
- Help heal from loss or trauma.
- Generate wonderful memories.
The first half of the book focuses on everyday rituals. These are traditions that help children feel loved, provide a sense of connection, establish a rhythm of days, help children feel safe and protected, and just plain make kids happy.
Cox says these rituals come first because, "To a toddler, next Christmas is farther away than the next millennium, but if he has a bedtime ritual that makes him feel safe and loved, his life today is golden."
These are rituals for hello and goodbye, mealtimes, problem-solving, sibling fights, school days, homework, pets, chores, TV, bedtime, books, sports, family nights and more. Some are fun, some are sweet, some are wacky, some are sensible and fair.
- The Michaels of Minneapolis say a simple grace and then all squeeze hands before they eat.
- Once a week, serve a meal that requires absolutely no utensils.
- One family's seat belt ritual has Mom saying, "Buckle up!" and the three kids saying, "Why do we buckle up?" and then saying together, "Because we love each other!".
- Create a memorial garden for pets that die. You can plant specific plants for different animals (like catnip for cats) or plants to suit the animal (like bright sunflowers for a pet with a sunny disposition). You can paint markers or use special garden decorations for each animal.
- A tip from Amanda Soule is to assign each child a duty for the week (laundry helper, bathroom helper, etc.) and whoever is on dishwashing duty gets to pick the music the family listens to at mealtimes that week.
The second half of the book is traditions for special occasions. Big occasions are listed, such as birthdays, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Hanukkah, but dozens of wonderful other days are listed as well.
- Half birthdays
- Milestone birthdays (turning an age that's extra special)
- Summer vacations
- New houses
- First periods
- A.A. Milne's birthday
- Snow days
- Arbor Day
- May Day
- Winter Solstice
- and so on....
What I really love about the book is how happy and enthusiastic I feel each time I pick it up again and read a few more pages. The ideas are simple but special. These are rituals that give children strong feelings of tradition and closeness, and just help families feel more loving.
This is a book I plan to use often in the years to come.
The Book of New Family Traditions is published by Running Press and retails for $16.00 (it is currently $10.88 on Amazon, with free shipping on orders over $25).