Family and cultural traditions serve a very important purpose. They reinforce familial bonds, create a sense of purpose, and promote joy in all kinds of settings. However, sometimes traditions can be a source of stress and anxiety. As a company specializing in community care support, prioritizing mental health and wellness is something we at AHCS champion every day. So we decided to discuss this universal phenomenon – pressure and negativity that is sometimes brought about by family traditions.

Ironically, the goal of starting and upholding traditions is to boost happiness and togetherness. But for many reasons (such as divorce and/or blending of new families, death, illness, logistics, etc.), these special rituals and routines that families hold so dear can bring about negative experiences as well as feelings of being overwhelmed or resentful. Let’s talk about some of the ways to implement healthy family traditions, respect boundaries, and absorb all the positive aspects of tradition, while avoiding the negative.

To start, look at the life stage that you’re currently in and ask yourself if your traditions have changed, stayed the same, or even exist anymore. For those who are transitioning into a new life stage, it might be a good time to create new routines and traditions. This can include family/relatives, or even close friends. For example, some who are moving into retirement and have children living far away might feel unsettled about feelings of change, and could benefit from new routines. Perhaps you could join households with other retirees for special events such as Christmas. You might consider implementing a standing monthly get-together with a dear friend – and stick to this plan. This can be extremely valuable for your mental health – it provides social and emotional fulfillment, as well as something to look forward to.

For those who experience anxiety or other negative emotions with certain family traditions, first consider whether the benefit outweighs the sacrifice. Your wellbeing is important, and if you’re being depleted and left with a below-empty tank, it may be time to disengage from particular events or traditions and start your own new ones. If this is not possible, it could be helpful to discuss your concerns with someone within the family that you trust, and see if there’s a way to be involved without putting yourself in a position where you feel trapped. Perhaps you put a time limit on your attendance, or volunteer to join in on certain activities, while avoiding others.

Remember, there are many ways to bond with family members while respecting and honouring your own needs. Maybe you plan to cook a family favourite dish every once in a while – and use that opportunity to stay connected, show you care, and soak in that special quality time for yourself.

Be open to and accepting of change. The reality is that as life shifts, so do our traditions – and that is ok. The beauty of this life is our ability to craft it from scratch – we get to decide our own traditions, what serves us and our families best, and how we want to experience our lives moving forward.

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