The holidays can be filled with joy and happiness, but they can also be sad and isolating for families after life-changing events such as death, separation, deployment, or divorce. These feelings can be especially present for children.

“Parents’ time is valuable and children recognize that from an early age,” said Sheree Bailey, Ph.D., Outpatient Therapist with Canopy Children’s Solutions. “When a parent spends time with a child, you are telling them, ‘you have worth’ and reinforcing the validity of your relationship. Establishing a monthly or annual tradition gives a child a sense of stability, builds trust, and reminds the child they are still an important part of your life even if your time together is more limited than before.”


Children can become stressed over feeling isolated after a change in family dynamics. It is important to reassure your child that your time together still holds great value, which is why traditions, particularly after trauma, can be a great way to heal together. Establishing a holiday tradition demonstrates to your child that they have security and gives them something to look forward to each year.

Traditions don’t have to be costly or extravagant; however, they should be consistent and intentional.

One of the best things about traditions, is it is never too late to start. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Sponsor a needy child at Christmas and shop for gifts together
  • Go caroling
  • Decorate your home or Christmas tree as a family
  • Bake and decorate cookies together
  • Visit a place of worship
  • Watch your favorite holiday movie
  • Volunteer
  • Light a menorah
  • Attend a parade
  • Go see a play or musical
  • Visit a community light display
  • Build gingerbread houses
  • Write letters to Santa

Regardless of what you do, be “present” without being in a rush. Have a conversation with your child about what they enjoy most about the activity and take time to really listen. These special occasions can mend broken hearts by fully investing in the moment. Continuing traditions creates a sense of unity within the family which helps to build a child’s identity as an integral part of the family unit.

volunteer tradition

These traditions may be the most vivid memories of your child’s young life. Make sure they are filled with happy moments of love and acceptance. Find something that brings your family joy for years to come that your children can pass on to the next generation.

What are some of your favorite holiday traditions?

Contributed by Laura Walker, staff writer for Canopy Children’s Solutions

This article is shared with permission from Well-Being Magazine. It was originally
published in the magazine’s November/December 2017 issue. For more from Well-Being visit