Becoming a parent is a transformation in SO many ways but one thing that is often slow to react is family traditions. This may be a wonderful thing, or it may be a source of some frustration. Suddenly, traveling to 4 houses over two days during cold winter holidays may not sound as fun. Having your first Mother’s Day or Father’s Day still centered around your parents or others may deflate your fantasy a bit. Even a usually straightforward holiday like the Fourth of July is now complicated by a bedtime routine of a toddler who would probably be terrified of the fireworks anyway!
You are a brand-new branch of the family tree with your growing family – connected but separate now. So how do parents recalibrate or recreate these annual milestone days to still have meaning but not be an ordeal?
If you have a partner, start by answering these questions and sharing them with each other.
- What are the current family ACTIVITIES & TRADITIONS around each holiday? Activities just being the things you DO and traditions being activities with meaning and importance. EX. A BBQ might be an activity, but Mom’s Potato Salad is a TRADITION. A family might get together for a New Year’s Day brunch but maybe it’s just because everyone has the day off, there’s not IMPORTANCE attached to it.
- What is your favorite holiday and why? Where do you feel refueled, connected, or inspired by holiday traditions?
- What traditions (holiday or otherwise) would you like to continue for your child(ren) and what would you really like to leave behind.
- What might be difficult but important to keep in your Holiday plans / what might be hard to do but worth the effort.
- If you could start fresh without upsetting anyone, what NEW traditions might you like to start? How do they bring value and meaning to your new family?
Create an idea or a first draft to think about it – even go through one round of the holiday as-is and just consider where you might make changes next time – especially if this is your first holiday! If this is your second, third or more time around then check out our toddler play blog for ideas about preventing some common holiday struggles.
Now it’s time to bring your plan or proposal to your family. Depending on the kind of family you have, you may find that you just need to state your family’s plan and move on to the next step. Other families may require some careful negotiating and revising.
- Ideally, these discussions should happen LONG before important family dates.
- You might soften the blow by using phrases like “this year” and “for now” if you are considering changing your minds as your child(ren) get a little older. You might share that you consider these changes an experiment and are willing to discuss again after the holiday. Validate big feelings, even if you don’t agree and it won’t change the plan. “I know this has been an important experience and we’ll be sad to miss it. I wish we could clone ourselves.”
- Each parent should take the lead with their family. Blaming your spouse/partner for the changes rarely goes well but stating that you now have THREE sets of family needs and traditions to consider might help. Yours, theirs, ours.
3. DIVE IN
Give it a try! Keep communication lines open with each other and with family members. Be extra sensitive to possible tender feelings the first few times but know that you’re creating healthy boundaries that will be the beginnings of a lifetime of memories with your own child(ren)
4. DITCH THE GUILT
You could make yourself mentally and physically exhausted trying to meet the needs of others and overextending for something that isn’t refueling and connecting. Sometimes a stretch is worth the extra expense of effort and sometimes it’s not
5. REVISIT & REVISE
Revisit step 1 if you’re having doubts or if things change – this is a work in progress forever more. What feels impossible with a one-year-old may be perfect with a 5-year-old…or with more regular, consecutive hours of sleep 🙂