You can never underestimate the value of traditions. Any parent knows this to be true. It’s why we wake up early and stay up late to make birthdays extra special. And it’s why we insist on the “first day of school” picture long after they’re willing participants.
The American Psychological Association knows it to be true, too. A study covering more than 50 years of research notes the importance of routines and traditions have in improving family relationships.
What does this mean for kids without two parents living in the same household? It’s still incredibly important, and the research agrees. It says family routine for kids of single, divorced, and remarried parents “may actually protect children from the proposed risk associated with being raised in nontraditional families.”
So what are some easy ways to do this? By working together with your coParent, here are five traditions you can keep in place for the good and betterment of your kids.
Have special lunches or dinners
Everyone can relate to the power of food. From special recipes to brunch or dinner traditions, it brings people together. No matter what your tradition, try to keep it going with your coParent. Maybe you always go for ice cream after the first Little League game. Perhaps you do Sunday night dinners or brunch on Easter. Try to keep these traditions intact where you can. Even if you can’t agree on all traditions, working to keep some will go a long way.
Gather for the first day of school
The first-day-of-school picture is such a classic moment, and no one wants to miss out it. This is an easy one to do. Have everyone gather for a special breakfast (on neutral ground if sharing a meal in one of your homes is too contentious) before the first day of school, and then let everyone take their pictures. It’s such a small thing, but it’s a great tradition to continue year after year.
Go to the movies
Movies are a tradition for a lot of families, but with coParents, this can be a sensitive topic. It becomes an issue of who “gets” to take the kids to the newest movie, and the other person is out of luck. Instead of this, try going to the movies together. It’s not like you do much talking, and the kids can sit between you. This will likely thrill your kids, and then no one has to go to the movies alone.
This one is so important, and if it’s the only one you do on the list, vow to figure it out. Kids do not need stress and worry on their birthdays. No matter what issues you have with your coParent, put your differences aside to celebrate birthdays together. It’s easy to tell yourself that it’s better to keep birthdays separate and that you’ll “make up for it” by doing something really special. But try to make it work! Develop a plan to celebrate all birthdays together, and stick to it. If the thought of being with your ex on your child’s birthday makes you squirm, at the very least coordinate gift giving and celebration efforts so it doesn’t turn into a competition between the two of you.
Enjoy the holidays
You have your schedule, clearly divided. But if you can find small ways to bring holiday moments under the same roof, your kids will appreciate it more than you ever know. This doesn’t mean you have to do everything together or try to pretend everything is like it was, but you can enjoy little moments together. Maybe you all meet up for hot chocolate at Christmas or go play mini golf on the 4th of July. Get creative, and remind yourself that it’s for the kids.
Traditions change over time, and this OK. It’s part of life. But don’t let them completely disappear. Make new traditions as coParents, and keep them going. You can get your kids involved in making them, too. No matter what, don’t give up. It might be one of the most important things you can do a coParent.