Enjoying a smaller space after downsizing can leave you wondering how this adjustment might affect some family traditions, especially if you’ve been the primary host for parties and holiday celebrations. In fact, there are many reasons why family traditions may need to be changed or adapted. Here are some ways to usher in new traditions while honoring the old.
Why Start New Traditions?
Family is always in flux, always growing, adapting, changing. Family traditions inevitably must grow and change to fit the family, whether due to marriages, the arrival of babies, adult children moving, retirement and downsizing, an illness, or a death in the family.
Traditions were created for your family, not the other way around. Remember it’s ok to change things and meet new needs, new spaces, new people, and new lifestyles.
How to Communicate Effectively About New Traditions
Family traditions are important to many people, and there are often strong feelings attached to them. Whether the change is coming from you or other family members, communicate about it as early as you can. Talk about the feelings and expectations everyone has around the traditions.
Most importantly, explain the reason for the change, what it means to you, and how it may benefit everyone. If you just announce a changing tradition without explanation, it can seem abrupt and trigger concern, confusion, or hurt feelings in family members.
For example, perhaps you and your spouse just retired and are living in a much smaller home. Up until this year, you always hosted the Christmas gift exchange for your three children, their spouses, and your grandchildren. If you suddenly ask your oldest daughter if she can host Christmas this year, without an explanation as to why, she may worry that something is wrong.
However, if you explain that she has a bigger house, you don’t have the space anymore, and you recognize it’s been difficult for her to travel the last few years with her young children, she won’t be confused. She may even be excited to host, and happy that everyone will still be able to see each other.
How to Start a New Tradition
If it’s feasible and you know ahead of time that things are changing, you could hold the old tradition one last time and give it a proper goodbye. This won’t work in all situations, but it can be a nice way to gain closure.
If you’re not able to have ‘one last time’ with the old tradition, have a good-bye ceremony in which you toast the old tradition during the new one. Have family members take turns sharing what they loved about the old tradition, and what they look forward to with the new one.
Preserve the spirit behind the old.
Try to uphold the spirit of the old tradition in the new tradition. Ask yourself and your family, why did we start this tradition in the first place? For example, if you and your siblings always went to your parents’ house to exchange gifts on Christmas, perhaps the spirit behind the tradition is time together and thoughtful gift-giving.
So when you choose a new tradition to replace it, make sure there is an element of meaningful time and gifts. That way, there will be less of a jarring difference when perhaps the location, date, or duration of the get together is adjusted to fit everyone’s new needs.
Start a new tradition, however small, for every tradition that is ending. Adjust traditions or pass the torch to other family members vs. ending them entirely—that can help make it easier.
Ways to Cope When Traditions Change
Transitions are difficult, especially when they involve multiple people who have varying emotions, attachments, and needs. Here are some tips on how to make it through a difficult change such as adjusting family traditions:
- Recognize and accept that change is a part of life.
- Be respectful of others’ needs and feelings.
- Acknowledge shifting family dynamics.
- Be compassionate to yourself and your family members.
- Put yourself in your family’s shoes to understand where they are coming from, and kindly ask them to do the same for you.
- Acknowledge how you feel about the old tradition, then redirect your focus from the tradition that is ending to the time with family or the aspects of the new tradition that you enjoy. You could even ask everyone after the fact to list out a few things they enjoyed about the new tradition.
- Talk to a therapist to help you navigate the change, especially if you are finding it particularly difficult to let go.
Change isn’t easy, especially when it involves long-cherished traditions. Embracing the new and finding closure towards the old can help you and your family move forward to make new memories together.
Caring Transitions offers compassionate assistance with downsizing and estate sales. Learn more about how we can take the load off your shoulders and help make the process seamless for you or your loved one.