University of Illinois Extension

Making Family Memories

Amy Griswold, Family Life Educator

During the holiday season, many families gather for special traditions and share memories. But for grandparents who are parenting again, the holidays may bring on a sense of sadness. Families who are separated by military deployment may find the holidays especially difficult. How can you help? Use this holiday season as an opportunity to discuss traditions your family has enjoyed.

You could even start some new traditions to build memories of your family as it is now. Traditions are special activities that we repeat regularly and that have special meaning to those who participate.

Traditions give family members a sense of belonging and can help give families stability. Values and beliefs are strengthened through traditions. When we share these activities again and again, it reinforces the importance of family for young people.

Traditions don’t have to be extravagant affairs, and they don’t have to cost extra money. Sometimes our family traditions change along with the family—it is okay to adapt a tradition to fit your current situation. If your grandchild’s parent is in the military, take pictures or videos of the family participating in holiday traditions to send to the deployed parent. The important thing is to do activities together as a family to build memories.

Here are some ideas for simple family activities that could become your own holiday traditions:

  • Include children in holiday baking. Make cookies or quick breads to eat together and share with others.
  • Go caroling as a family or with a group. Visit neighbors, friends or shut–ins.
  • Prepare a special recipe that has been handed down through the generations for holiday meals. Let the children help.
  • Set aside a time to watch holiday TV specials together or rent holiday movies to watch together.
  • Read special holiday poems or books. Look for stories that have meaning for your family.