“Jenny–you and Dave seem to have made your divorce work. As Danny and I try, it just feels like the kids are losing so much. Is there any way to get our children a win in this divorce?”
No doubt—children lose in divorce. They lose their sense of identity. They lose the security of coming home to both parents. They lose predictability and continuity as they navigate two homes with two sets of rules. Parents provide children “wins” when they ensure those two homes are nurturing and secure. Traditions help parents get there.
Though many parents consider the idea of traditions outdated or irrelevant, traditions offer children identity and security. A 50-year research review by the American Psychological Association states that children raised with traditions experience better physical and emotional health. More, researchers found children feel more secure and connect more deeply with others when sharing in traditions—creating closer family ties.
Traditions don’t have to be huge or complicated to reap these benefits. Celebrating the first day of school with ice cream or moving an elf at Christmas are easy traditions. Though simple, they still offer children the essential gifts of identity, connection, and core values.
Children struggle most with loss of identity when parents divorce. While more prevalent, children still feel weird or the “odd man out” when their own parents divorce. Their family’s identity seems shattered.
Traditions create identity. When families tailgate before every home football game, the tradition says, “We are a football family.” When parents continue the tradition after divorce, even separately, children realize “We are still a football family.” Those “stills” reassure children that, as so much changes, their family continues.
Likewise, as parents create independent homes, each parent can start new traditions to define their own life with children. The outdoors-loving mom who starts taking children camping every 4th of July says, “We are an outdoors family.”
Even the indoors-loving children who complain about bugs and rain benefit from knowing this side of mom. More, the teen who complained most loudly about going on the family camping trip often finds themself pitching a tent with their own children on the 4th of July. This connection to mom becomes part of their identity. Parents use traditions to teach children what they love.
In a world filled with distraction and distance, traditions create a time and space to connect. When families gather around a Hanukah candelabra or the table on game night, they come face-to-face. They laugh, share stories, and create memories. The traditions create connection with children, who often feel disconnected after divorce.
Sites like Ancestry.com point to the deep desire for people to also connect to their past. Parents create this connection for children through sharing stories of celebrations with their own parents and grandparents. These don’t have to be big to be important. Memories of learning to bait the hook for the Memorial Day fishing trip or of Grandma making hot chocolate to celebrate the first snowfall give children a window to the past. Children come to know more about their family and feel pride in who they are part of.
Children crave to know what is expected and why. Traditions create space for both. As children help put out the special dishes for Christmas dinner or pack snacks for the 500 parade, the routine gives children a roadmap for knowing what to do. This grows confidence and security.
More importantly, traditions give a “why” for life’s important moments and define the values of their family. Quinceaneras, bar mitzvahs, and tooth fairies teach that their family values the stages of growing up. Religious traditions offer guidance on “Why am I here?” and “How do I treat others?” Traditions such as planting a garden or attending a fall festival link children to seasons of the year. All these teach children what their family values and connects children to something larger than themselves–providing a foundation of security.
For parents desperate to give children a “win” in divorce, traditions provide a way. For more information on protecting your family in divorce, call 317-793-0825 or email info@ResolutionMediationIN.com. We look forward to serving you.