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SkyMoms > Parenting Tips

Are We On The Road To Building Strong Family Identity?

There’s a long stretch of straight and narrow highway between Dumas, Texas and the New Mexico border. We’ve driven it at least ten times as a family on our way to and from annual summer vacations in Colorado.

Along the horizon, where the blue sky meets the green grass of farmlands, a single wind turbine sprouts out of the ground. It’s a stand out because, usually, wind turbines exist in pods.

Our kids eagerly look for the “lone windmill” every year on the second leg of our road trip. This year, they decided to name it Larry. The alliteration in their choice made their writer-mama proud!

It’s just one example of all the memories that exist for our family between Plano, Texas and Lake City, Colorado where we attend family camp each summer. To name others, there’s the hotel in Dumas where we eat pizza and swim after a long first leg of driving, the sign in Clayton where we stop for a family selfie, the Loves gas station near Alamosa that has some of the best unsweetened ice tea, and the discussion we always have about which roadside hill is Capulin Volcano (there are several, and our kids can’t ever remember).

These are simple things, but they conjure up a strong sense of something special in our car as we travel the same path year over year, recalling memories of the past and checking traditions off our list.

That something special is family identity. It’s an area in which we were encouraged to do a lot of work when we became parents. Because strong family identity will serve our kids well as they grow into the teen years when we can’t always hold their hands.

Why is it that memory-making and traditions are so powerful in shaping a family’s identity?

It turns out, there are psychological reasons for the impact they have, as confirmed by a friend of mine who is a school guidance counselor.

She explained that making memories and practicing family traditions help establish the importance of the family unit. This creates a strong sense of belonging for each member of the family and communicates to children that they are valued members of the family.

They also allow children important opportunities to observe members of the family living fully into their roles within the family. Because, let’s face it. We live in such a busy culture that, often, our children do not see their parents working as a team, but rather passing like ships in the night.

Memory making and family traditions also provide opportunities to reinforce family values and to pass down important nuggets of heritage. As a result, “Team Smith” takes on rich meaning. This serves families well as children enter the teen years, and their peers become more influential.

But what I love most is that memory making and family traditions reinforce “home base,” no matter where we are. This helps children understand that “home” isn’t so much about where we live but about with whom we’re doing life. What a wonderful way to teach into the idea that life is about relationships rather than stuff!

Every family is different. So making memories and establishing family traditions will look different for every family. It’s not so much about how we slice the pie, but rather about whether we’re willing to pull up to the table.

Your family may not have the freedom or desire to take two-week-long road trips in the summer. But there are things that make you tick in ways that communicate the importance of family and define your family’s values and heritage. Lean into those things and help your family find its own Larry the Lone Windmill along the way!