Our eldest child is seven now, which doesn’t seem so old, but in today’s society means he will soon be noticing more about the culture, asking us possibly difficult questions, paying more attention to his peers, and seeing how our family is different from others. The teen years are looming, in the not so distant future, and I have been thinking that now is the time to focus on building a “family culture” to provide a buffer between our family and society at large.
What is a “family culture”? No, it’s not a bad joke about the sharing of bacteria in your house. A family culture is, simply, how your family differs from every other family. I appreciate this post from Catholic All Year on this topic. A family culture mostly has to do with preferences: What does your family like? And matters of discipline: What will you allow/not allow in your home? And other fun stuff: How do you like to recreate together? How do you find rest and relaxation together? Your family is like a club with inside jokes where you and your children always belong. My hope is that this special clique that our family is will ease the tumult of the teen years. Rather than comparing to their peers, I hope our children will see their siblings as peers, and have the best kind of companions for empathy and commiseration.
So how do you go about building a family culture? There are so many ways. We have adopted a new tradition in our home that incorporates a couple of the ways we love to spend time as a family: eating, and consequently, cooking. I love to bake, and fortunately, my kids love to eat. We eat almost every meal together as a family, but anyone with any number of children knows that most family meal times aren’t exactly, um, fun. Throw in a baby, toddler, a preschooler, etc., and it can be downright miserable. So most family dinners just get the job of simple nourishment done.
However, on Sundays, we have started to have “Sunday Tea.” For this tradition, once a week, we all put on our Sunday best, literally and figuratively. We make the table look fancy. We spend some time on Saturday baking special and yummy treats to eat. I make sure that there are at least a couple of things in the meal that everyone in the family will enjoy. And, the most important element: to my kids’ delight, they can eat as much as they want, up to two helpings of dessert! We all look forward to our time together, and I pray, that as they grow and change and have new people and interests pulling on their time, they will not want to miss Sunday Tea.
A family culture need not be complicated: just emphasize the fun things you do together. There is a certain amount of misery inherent in the raising a family (you know what I mean!), so remember, sometimes you have to just enjoy things as they are (i.e. not perfect, sometimes painfully so), rather than as you think they should be. So, let us not grow weary in doing good, that we may have a harvest to reap in due season (Gal. 6:9)!
And, just for kicks, here is a clip of our recent “Sunday Teas” (make sure to turn the sound on!):
This is the first post in a series on Building Family Culture. If you would like to contribute thoughts on your own experience, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or comment below. We would love to hear from you and perhaps put together a post with your Family Culture traditions.