Maintaining and growing new family traditions with children who are entering college can be a challenging situation for any family. College students are in the process of building their own lives and schedules and may not be able to as fully participate in family traditions as they have in the past.
Tweaking old family traditions or creating new ones when the family dynamic changes is a sign of a healthy family.
Families that can adjust and respond to changes as their children grow, parents age, and spouses are added are more able to remain connected throughout life. As families adjust to having a young adult in college, family traditions are a great way to remain positively connected as a family. And new traditions open the door for new memories to be made. The holiday season is all about spending time with people we love and celebrating the gifts (not material goods) we’ve been given in our lives—and family traditions are a great example of how to give thanks!
As we continue through this holiday season, consider these ways to maintain family traditions:
- Ask your children which family traditions they enjoy and would miss if they didn’t happen each year. Everyone attaches emotion to positive memories, and it helps to keep traditions alive that most everyone in the family enjoys.
- Keep age-appropriate traditions alive. Hit ‘pause’ on ones that young children will enjoy for when the family changes and grows again. For example, your 22 year old son may not want to keep reading The Polar Express each year, but it’s a great tradition to introduce later when young children join the family.
- Remind your college students of upcoming family traditions by sending them a reminder card or funny e-card a few weeks before a holiday or break from school. College students report feeling loved and missed when they receive mail or funny letters from home—it’s a great way to remind your college student everyone loves them and are awaiting their arrival to kick off the season!
- Take pictures throughout the tradition or holiday season to keep the spirit alive!
- Be creative in finding new ways to celebrate the family being reunited—ask your college student what they’d like to do when they return home and integrate it into your annual family traditions around the holiday season.
Sarah Brookings, MA, LPC