Fostering Family Traditions

November 8, 2019
Guest Post by Katie Adams, Philanthropy Coordinator with Connect Our Kids
Watching “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” while cuddled beneath the blanket knitted by my great-aunt; making pumpkin pie from great-grandma’s recipe and indulging in a slice loaded with whipped cream for breakfast the next day; setting up our nativity sets from around the globe, gifted from dear relatives and collected during years spent living overseas—it’s hard to choose our most cherished family tradition. Each one carries memories that make my heart both ache and swell with joy at the remembrance.

Our family customs and rituals lend an identifiable rhythm to the seasons and provide a sense of security that comes with familiarity and predictability. Traditions link us to our shared heritage, they transmit our family stories. And, those family stories are far more important than most of us realize.

Each and every one of us longs to be part of something larger than ourselves. We need to feel connected to our heritage. A decade ago, psychologists Marshall Duke and Robyn Fivush published the results of their fascinating study on children and family knowledge entitled “‘Do You Know?’: The power of family history in adolescent identity and well-being.” Their research showed a significant positive correlation between emotional well-being and knowledge of family history and traditions. The more a child knew the stories that shaped his family, the better he was able to deal with life’s challenges and feel a sense of control over his own life. For a child, identity and self-esteem are built on a foundation of shared family knowledge, passed down through stories and traditions.

When children are removed from their immediate families, their family traditions and stories are often left behind. The thread that ties them to their heritage is broken, and their sense of identity can begin to unravel.

Our parents aren’t the only ones who keep our traditions alive, though. Our siblings, our aunts and uncles, our cousins, even the friends who have long listened to our stories are potential keepers of our traditions and family knowledge. By identifying and locating extended family members, Connect Our Kids Family Connections tool can enable foster children to maintain access to their generational stories and the traditions that build identity and resiliency. Connect Our Kids gives foster children the opportunity to hold on to the thread of their heritage and make it strong enough to weave with new traditions.

Tell us your own family traditions and spread the word about Connect Our Kids using the hashtag #FosteringFamilyTraditions on social media.

Together, we can make sure that foster children are connected to the family stories and traditions they need to thrive.

Helping children is a vibrant, happy yellow thread that runs through Katie’s life. She is mom to two super children, works as the Philanthropy Coordinator with Connect Our Kids, and is the Children’s Ministry Director at Idylwood Presbyterian Church. She is living in Falls Church, Virginia, in between posts abroad with her Foreign Service Officer husband.

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