Thursday, July 29th, 2021

R Relationships by Dr. Bill Austin
The parenting box top | Part 2



Last month, I shared a story about a family trying to put a jigsaw puzzle together. The harder they worked, the more frustrated they became. No matter how hard they worked, the picture they put together did not match the puzzle box. The reason: the puzzle pieces were in the wrong box! I used this story as an analogy for parenting and wrote about some of the unrealistic expectations about parenting that do not work.

What puzzle pieces or expectations do fit the parenting box top? Some years ago, there was a book that listed the top 25 traits of a healthy family. To come up with these traits, the writer, Curan, interviewed over 250 family therapists and pastors. It would be advisable to include these traits on our parenting box top.

Curan listed one of the traits as healthy families have traditions and rituals. This trait needs to be one of the goals on our parenting box top. "Traditions" has been defined as behaviors and actions that we participate in again and again. In The Book of New Family Traditions rituals has been defined as, "Any activity you purposely repeat together as a family that includes heightened attentiveness and something extra that lifts it above the ordinary ruts." As parents, we want to create traditions and rituals because they establish identity, connect us to our past, build history, and tell a story about our families. Family rituals and traditions are something we look forward to, and they say home to us.

The traditions can be expressed differently for each family. We have our different rituals for each tradition. We have different rituals for celebrating the holidays such as Christmas. The rituals might include how we open presents as a family, having a special Christmas breakfast, baking bread and cookies to give to neighbors, or visiting the shut-ins.

Traditions and rituals foster a sense of belonging
and security by helping to shape a child's personal identity.
Psychologist Marshal Duke has found that children who
have intimate knowledge
of their family's history
are typically
more well-adjusted and self-
than children who don't.

One of the traditions that my family cherishes is a family reunion at a North Carolina beach. This tradition goes back to when my parents were still living. Every year at the same time, we would all take our vacations to meet at a rented beach house in North Carolina. We would spend a week together doing certain rituals that included fishing, skits, and going out for seafood dinners. Even after my parents' death, Karen and my immediate family still continue with our beach reunion. We do some of the same rituals as well as adding some new ones. It is most likely that my sons and later the grandchildren will continue these traditions.

Next month we will continue with other parenting goals.

Dr. William E. Austin is a licensed psychotherapist and holds a Doctor of Divinity degree. He is a therapist with Tidewater Pastoral Counseling Services . He is well known for his warmth and sense of humor. His book, Creating Our Safe Place - Articles on Healthy Relationships, can be purchased through

Tidewater Pastoral Counseling: 623-2700