Connecting the Generations-How to Create Strong Family Traditions

We had traveled from California to Hilton Head Island, SC to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with my parents. After a trip to the beach, we returned to my folks’ house for dinner. At each table setting my mother had placed 3 pieces of candy corn. She asked us to go around the table, place one candy corn in a crystal bowl, and name something we were thankful for. We did so. Half way through dinner my mother asked us to do it again. We complied then repeated the ritual one more time before dessert. This simple activity carried the spirit of gratitude through the meal in a lighthearted yet tangible manner.

As we did dishes, my dad reached into the bowl, plucked out two candy corns and popped them in his mouth. Our daughter, Lisa, whispered to me, “Grandpa’s eating our prayers!” I laughed and wondered, “Isn’t that what we are supposed to do, enjoy our blessings?”

We went home then the next year when we celebrated Thanksgiving at home in California we repeated the candy corn activity. And then we did it again the next year. It became a tradition. We go around the table in the same manner on Thanksgiving Day, stating what we are thankful for and placing a candy corn in a dish, just as we had done at my parent’s house. And I always tell the story of Grandpa eating our prayers. We laugh and feel connected to each other. It feels good; it’s sort of magical.

How do you start a tradition of your own?

Choose an activity your family is likely to enjoy then add an emotional component (with storytelling, candle lighting, or personal reflection). Then repeat the activity next year (with the accompanying emotional component) and, if your family enjoyed the activity the first time around, it’s likely that you now have a tradition you can call your own.

Here’s the formula:

Fun family activity + reflection to establish emotional component + repetition = Family Tradition

For best results involve family members. It’s likely to be successful if everyone has a part to play. Be cautious to not establish too many traditions. Life is busy. We want to bond together as family, we want to create memories, but we don’t need to overburden ourselves with too many things to do. So choose just a couple traditions to go with your holidays. Then enjoy the magic.

By Amy Sluss, RN. Amy Sluss is a well-loved local speaker. She is known for her mother-daughter workshops that build self-esteem, positive body image (and much more) for 4th-10th grade girls. Visit her website: