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The richest family and community heritages often stem from generations of sharing. These traditions make life more meaningful and are unique to each family.

Additionally, holidays or religious celebrations provide the foundation for creating memories.

Communities bound by neighborhoods, faith or school spirit thrive due to rich sentiment.

These observances promote a sense of belonging and continuity in family and community.

Traditions can be the glue that holds a family or community together.

The foundation builds strong relationships between generations, offering consistency to families or communities when faced with change or times of stress.

It's true that celebrations are often fun. They also have the potential to establish fond memories for those who participate and provide a connection and closeness in the family.

Traditions, rituals, routines, celebrations

A repeated activity is considered a tradition or ritual only when tied to something of significance, such as culture, history or family. Without that connection, the activity is a routine.

Traditions give individuals a sense of security and predictability, playing a role in helping children learn more about family, community or life skills.

The security and comfort of everyday rituals create stability when other things seem to be changing around them, such as incidents of illness or loss.

Rituals create family identity. They are special to those who are involved in them. While others may perform a similar activity, it is not necessarily the same as your individual family.

Because rituals hold value, a message is given about what the family considers important and valuable.

Traditions are a way families hand down information, beliefs and customs from one generation to the next. They give generations an opportunity to share important family values together. Many of our family celebrations become traditions as we observe holidays or lifetime milestones.

It is important to teach children why your family does a tradition or ritual and the meaning it holds for your family. This will help them understand values and beliefs from a very young age.

If you don't explain the "why," those less engaged, such as teens or newcomers to a community, may just think it is something boring they have to do every year.

Many family traditions are based around meals. Studies show that significant bonding takes place when families eat together. Mealtime is where children learn about table manners, social skills and family values.

Rituals reinforce family bonding and healthy lifestyles. Here are some things to consider:

— Start a pattern of participating in family dinners when children are young.

— Get all family members involved in the family meal — make table decorations, help prepare food, set the table or help clean up.

— Explain to children why a certain activity or food is important to your family to help them understand the reason you serve it.

— Allow all family members to contribute to the conversation.

— Remember that adults serve as role models for healthy eating and mealtime behavior.

— Make meal times a time for family connection. Turn off the TV and talk about your day.

Establish new traditions

Although family traditions are a source of strength, keeping them can sometimes become stressful.

It is especially noticed when there is a change in family structure like a wedding, divorce or death.

If the occasion becomes stressful, explore the potential to develop new rituals or adapt old traditions that replace those that are no longer providing a meaningful connection to family members.

You can also create new traditions as the family changes. Think about activities that fit into your lifestyle and reinforce your family values and beliefs.

New trends adapt to generational shifts and accommodate activities of extended family schedules.

Creating new rituals doesn't have to be complicated.

You can add a meaningful ritual to celebrations; when you do the same thing again and again, it becomes a tradition.

For example, grandparents might be invited to a holiday brunch where they can watch children open gifts.

If it continues and brings both sides of the family together for this special activity, it becomes a tradition.

It is OK to change "the way things have always been" to meet the needs of your family as it is today. The important thing is the spending time together celebrating your family or community.

For more information on family-life-related topics and programs, visit the University of Illinois Extension website at web.extension.illinois.edu/cfiv or contact Chelsey Byers Gerstenecker at 217-333-7672 or clbyers@illinois.edu.