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The Flexible Tradition

Holiday traditions are well upon us. If you celebrate Rosh Hashanah or Halloween or St. Nicholas Day, we’re well into the days of “we’ve done it this way for….” As we’ve discussed previous rituals are important and good for us as Thrivers but that doesn’t make them easy sometimes!

“Family traditions can have a calming effect on parents and children, alike — and research shows that they produce many other positive benefits, like improving family cohesion, fostering stability and promoting social development in children.” (The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin) Does that sound convincing enough for you to give your own family traditions a bit of break?

While there are certainly many benefits to keeping and honoring past traditions sometimes it becomes necessary to change them. Perhaps dynamics have changed because Grandma has moved out of the large house where everyone used to gather or you’ve moved to the other side of the world and its impossible to get back in time for that preferred meal. In these cases it might be helpful to think about what’s really important and how to translate that to new circumstances.

“Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., a licensed psychotherapist who has counseled families for 37 years, notes that disrupting family traditions can be much a bigger deal than people think it is or will be.” “Tradition is about much more than the tree or dreidel song. It’s the blood moving through you.” (Breaking from Holiday Traditions by Jacquie Goetz Bluethmann).

If it’s the blood moving through you it would indeed be wise to think about what you’re doing before you do it. Starting the conversation about what you’d like to change or how it might look has the potential to be tough but if you approach it with an attitude that this will work out, perhaps in ways you’ve not yet thought of, is a good place to start. As with many areas in Thriving the attitude you approach it makes all the difference in the world!

Another excellent suggestion is to keep your communication clear and well articulated. Allowing yourself to get into a heated discussion or resorting to, “just because” is ultimately not going to be helpful to you communicating what would work best for you. If your thoughts make sense to others they are likely to honor your suggestions.

If possible, try to stay flexible. If you no longer wish to travel to another location because you’ve had a tough year and need some time to recharge you might consider offering that the family can come to you or that you’d meet them in a middle location for a special meal.

Adding in a new tradition is often easier and more widely accepted than taking away a long-standing family tradition. Are you no longer eating a specific food or foods? Rather than taking it away altogether it might be useful to have it alongside the new selections.

Consider re-thinking when you celebrate a tradition or holiday if that helps you. Its tough to spread yourself thin and if its better for you perhaps the family can celebrate Christmas a few days later so you can be there to take part.

Thriving doesn’t mean we aren’t able to honor tradition, even if that tradition is something we no longer necessarily love to engage in, and to continue to Thrive we might find it useful to allow the power that of tradition to grow with us.

I’d love to hear from you about your family traditions, how they’ve changed over time and how you may wish to change them in the future! Drop a line! In the meantime all the best for your traditions!

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