Build and Share Your Own Holiday Traditions

Holiday traditions can raise some questions for parents. How do you make them meaningful and enjoyable for the kids? How do you draw from past traditions and make them your own? If you’re divorced, how do you share traditions with the kids and your ex- so that everyone’s happy?

Dr. Maris Clement, a licensed marriage and family therapist based in Los Angeles, California, says the key to building traditions is consistency. “Doing the same activity over and over is what creates the tradition.”

If you’re looking for ways to make your holiday traditions memorable and heartwarmingtry Clement’s insightful suggestions:

All about the kids
Clement emphasizes that for families, holiday traditions need to be “centered on the kids.” Fortunately, there’s no shortage of activities for children at this time. Craft projects, like making items specifically for the holidays is fun for kids and helps with the tradition building. “They can make things that can be remembered and pulled out for next year.”

How parents can lend a helping hand:


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    • Make holiday potholders from dishtowels or fabric scraps.
    • Bake cookie tree ornaments or host an ornament-making party for the kids and their friends. You make the cookies in advance—shaped as trees, bells, snowmen—and put out the frostings and candy decorations. Let the kids do the rest. When ready, they can hang the ornaments on the tree. After the holiday, the children can carefully wrap them up and store them for next year.
    • Go to a pottery studio that already has pre-made bowls and plates, paint supplies, firing and glazing equipment. The kids can paint their own holiday or religious scenes and use the items however they wish.
      “Whatever the activit,” Clement adds, “it’s essential that parents talk them over with the kids. Let them decide what they’d like to do.”

Holiday book
Build traditions by documenting them in a holiday book, almost like a scrapbook of your family’s festive activities. It can include:

      • Photos
      • Drawings of the activity or event—handmade or cut out from magazines and newspapers
      • Recipes they made or would like to make next year
      • Lists of movies, songs and books, including notes and opinions about each
        “When they look back through the book, they can see what they did and the fun they had,” says Clement. The holiday book can also serve as a useful guide when planning activities for the following years.

Two-family homes
Traditions can be challenging to create and preserve when parents are divorced. Each might have a separate idea of how and where to spend the holidays, which can be confusing for kids. Clement says, “Kids get nervous when there are lots of changes.” She advises parents to share the traditions, which in turn makes new ones. A common point of contention is how to split up parental visitation over the holidays. Clement advises that once the parents agree to a plan that works for everybody they continue it through the years. “The consistency keeps the tradition going and it’s comforting for the kids.”

What if the divorced parents don’t get along and struggle to share holiday plans? Clement says, “Stress makes us want to hold onto the way things have always been done.” She strongly instructs parents to put their grievances aside for a time and “really be there for the kids.” The ideal situation is for parents to let go of the past, toshare new ways of being and make new traditions.” What’s important is being together and sharing the activities—even when divorce might be involved—for that’s what builds holiday traditions.

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