New traditions for a changed world
For a long time, Jayne Bloch and her husband had been thinking about starting a family tradition with her two young children: lighting candles every Friday night. They finally started -- the first Friday evening after September 11th.
"Lighting the candles was suddenly more meaningful," says Bloch, a New York City psychoanalyst. "It was a way for us to reflect as a family on all of the things we were grateful for, and to pray for the people who had been personally devastated by the tragic events of Sept. 11th." The family's weekly candle-lighting also "gives the kids a chance to share their thoughts and feelings in a safe environment," Bloch adds.
During this time when national and world events spiral out of our control and anxiety is on the rise, it's particularly important for home to be a sanctuary, says Dr. Raymond Guarendi, a clinical psychologist and author of Back to the Family: How to Encourage Traditional Values in Complicated Times. Starting new family traditions -- or reinventing old ones -- is a wonderful way to help your family feel safe, move forward, and celebrate all that's good in the world. Plus, you continue to create happy memories during difficult times.
"Family traditions are the glue that keeps families together and a safety net when the world seems like it's falling apart," says Guarendi, a father of ten. "Kids come to count on them because they want and need the continuity and stability in rituals."
As we begin the holiday season, it's the perfect time to focus on the real meanings of the holidays and get back to basics with family traditions, adds Meg Cox, author of The Heart of the Family: Searching America for New Traditions that Fulfill Us. "We all really need a Thanksgiving right now," says Cox, a mother of one in Princeton, N.J. "Whenever you have a loss you have to regroup and celebrate what you have."
Although, some people may not feel like celebrating right now, continuing with holiday traditions can be the beginning of healing. "Rituals help heal the pain of life's greatest tragedies" by providing a sense of comfort, Cox says.