Some families have Fall traditions they look forward to every year, whether it be trick or treating, attending fall festivals, making jack-o-lanterns, baking pumpkin seeds or making pumpkin pies. As a child, my family didn’t necessarily have traditions of this nature in the Fall, but there were other times of the year we could look forward to certain activities like clockwork. Those memories become sweeter and sweeter with each passing year.
When I became an adult, married, and started my own family I looked forward to creating traditions for us. We had several: family photos twice a year; opening a Christmas present on Christmas Eve; regular holiday dinners with our friends and Easter Egg Hunts to name a few. It would have been impossible to predict, however, that our family would end in divorce. So what then? Do we continue with those traditions for the sake of the children? If so, how do we keep them alive and well?
All too often, children bear the brunt of adult problems and I’m not sure we, as adults, realize the detriment it can cause. When what they have always known no longer exists, it can shake their fragile foundation. After the divorce, we as adults try to find our new normal, yet the children are left wanting the familiar, wanting the safety and security of what they always had and likely still desire to have.
Is it possible? Is it possible that adults, for the sake of the children they share, can still maintain some semblance of family tradition? I happen to believe it is. It is only possible, however, when the adults remain focused on the priority which is to continue nurturing the children. It may not be feasible or even wise, based upon the circumstances, to forge a family Thanksgiving dinner, though, it is feasible to seek ways to continue family traditions the children may hold dear to their hearts.
For example: If, while married, Mom, Dad, and the kids enjoyed carving pumpkins together, continue to do it! Post-divorce, the children may now have two pumpkin carvings in separate households but they will still have the opportunity to participate in the activities they have come to enjoy with their parents. Adults tend to see the continuation of traditions as painful remembrances of what was. Children, on the other hand, view them as beautiful memories of what was. Just because our love for each other, as husband and wife, may have changed does not mean our love for our children changes. It is the love for the kids that should serve as the catalyst to keep important family traditions alive and well for their sake.
There is a train of thought that says, “Stuff happens, life changes and children have to learn to adapt.” Yes, I’ve heard that and I, myself, have spoken those very words to my child in certain situations as well. The love of their Father and Mother does not change though, and it is critical to the kids’ development that the parents seek to understand what they value and attempt to provide it. We owe that to them.
The struggle to keep family traditions alive and well after divorce can be made easier or harder with the addition of step-parents. If the step-parent is secure and also has the children’s best interest at heart, it is a helpful blessing. That’s what I refer to as ‘stepping in’ to assist. When the step-parent does not understand the intent, is insecure, and becomes a hindrance it can cause much more harm than they may be willing to see. Instead of stepping in to assist, they ‘step on’ the objective which is not helpful at all. In doing so they can actually be creating another source of pain for the children.
When new families are formed after divorce, new traditions will likely come and that should be expected and accepted by the children involved. If we are asking them to accept and respect what has now become important to us, shouldn’t we accept and respect what has always been important to them? Modifications may be necessary (two pumpkin carvings instead of one) but asking children to dispose of their old traditions is unnecessary in many cases.
My daughter and I have had “mommy/daughter” days since before she could walk and talk. The one-on-one time with her was important to me and she grew to appreciate them, and look forward to them as well. If we had gone too long without having one, she would ask me for one and it was my joy to accommodate the request! When I remarried we maintained our mommy/daughter outings. Of course, there were also times when the entire family (me, my daughter, my new husband, and his children) was together. In the beginning, my new husband did not completely understand why we wanted to be by ourselves but he later grew to accept it and see the value in it for my daughter’s sake.
If all parents, Mom, Dad, Step-mom, Step-dad, keep the children’s well-being as the priority I believe this creates what is often referred to as a “blended” family.