The summer is a great time to create family memories.

In this excerpt from the book We Always … Making memories that last a lifetime, Rob Parsons explores how the simple power of family traditions can cultivate a sense of belonging.

Over the years, Dianne and I have had the opportunity of talking with thousands of people about their childhoods, and time and time again, those who described their families as strong and loving also spoke of their cherished family traditions.

When asked what made the memories of their family life sweet, sooner or later they’d start a sentence with, “We always …”

We often think back to traditions we had when our children were young. A big one for us was ‘Family Night’. Once a week the kids would drag their mattresses across the landing and sleep on our bedroom floor. And once a month we would have a ‘Super Family Night’. This was a little more complicated and involved us all dragging our mattresses downstairs and sleeping on the living room floor. Now there’s no good reason why four people with perfectly good beds upstairs should want to do that – except that it’s fun. We’d light the fire, eat chocolate and tell stories in the darkness.

We used to talk about that tradition in our seminars and books, and we were once confronted by a man who initially seemed not too impressed with our suggestion. He said, “I have four kids and we tried the whole ‘Super Family Night’ thing. You know – bed downstairs, stories in the dark and eating chocolate.” We nodded nervously. He went on, “Three of my kids were sick all over their mattresses and the fourth threw up in my wife’s car the next day.” Then a huge smile crossed his face and he said, “It was worth it, though. Thanks for the memory.”

We have often thought about what he said: how the silliness, the hassle – even scraping the sick from the back seat of the Volvo – was worth it.

Whether they are simple or profound, traditions say to us, “You belong here – these are your roots.”

The family acts as a bulwark against the storms of life. It should be a place of training, security and safety, but also has another vital function. It gives us a sense of identity; it helps us know our place in the world – perhaps even the universe.

Traditions help in that. They create a sense of connectedness. They say ‘This is the way we do things around here. This is where I belong.’

Don’t feel pressurised into copying other families; when we do that, it’s not long before our joy is robbed from us. One size doesn’t fit all, and what’s important is that your traditions work for your family. And if plans become too complicated or unachievable, then change them – they are yours to make or to lay aside.

There are many reasons why traditions come to an end. While it can be something definitive that changes a tradition, such as the addition of a new family member, marriage, the loss of a loved one, or a house move, it could be that a tradition has simply run its course; they don’t need to last forever.

If you’re looking to be intentional with your family traditions but aren’t sure where to start, here are some pointers that may help:

  • Be ready to start new traditions, whether that be through meticulous planning or spontaneously.
  • Be willing to tweak or abandon any traditions that no longer work for you. You may have outgrown some traditions and that’s OK.
  • Find out whether there are any family traditions from previous generations that you could adapt and carry on.
  • Have fun!

Excerpt taken from Rob and Dianne Parsons’ book, We Always … Making memories that last a lifetime.

Rob Parsons

About the author

Rob Parsons, OBE, is the founder and chairman of Care for the Family. He is a bestselling author of over 25 books including The Sixty Minute Marriage, The Heart of Communication and We Always … Making Memories that last a lifetime. 

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