Forming New Family Traditions With Older Children

Author of 4 books, podcaster, parent trainer, wife and mother.

Share This Post

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on reddit
Share on email
Traditions are a part of what solidifies the culture of each unique family. As foster and adoptive families, we have the important challenge of blending many different customs in to one new family unit. This holiday season, we've been asking ourselves and our children how we can honor our individuality while celebrating together.

When I was growing up, Holidays were full of family traditions. On Thanksgiving Day we traveled to my grandma’s house for dinner. We cleaned up together and then went for a walk around our little town. Even if it was freezing, you could count on a gaggle of Schultzes quite loudly making our way through the neighborhood. That evening my family would buckle into the Caprice Classic and only then, begin the non-stop Christmas music that would fill my ears until New Year’s Day. The next day, we would venture out to cut down the perfect Christmas tree. We didn’t start decorating until all family members were present and accounted for, Nat King Cole Christmas was on the record player and egg nog was properly chilled and poured into 6 decorative mugs.

I knew what to expect each year at the holidays and it filled my spirit with anticipation to think about repeating each and every tradition. It wasn’t until recently that I considered how those traditions came to be. They gained importance over time. A family does something and then enjoys it, the family decides to do the same thing again and over time it becomes the expectation. Some traditions stay the same and some change or grow over time. Time is the key with traditions and time is a luxury foster and adoptive families are not guaranteed.

As our foster family grew, we had children make their way through our home during the holidays. Our traditions meant nothing to them. They were simultaneously mourning the loss of their family while trying to navigate the secret language of our family’s traditions. My oldest daughters came to live with us when they were 15 years old. They hadn’t experienced the Thanksgiving dinners, Christmas tree runs, or John Denver classics that were impressed on my childhood memories. They had their own expectations about the holidays and their own childhood recollections. It became apparent to us that we could not assume that our children would understand or appreciate the things we value as a family if we did not value the things they held dear as well.

As of today, we are adoptive parents of 8. Our oldest two are adults with spouses and children. Our three middle kids are teens with ideas and agendas of their own. Our youngest three are still in the magical age of loving everything about the holidays. My extended family no longer gets together for Thanksgiving dinner and neither does my husband’s family. My two older children have extended families of their own with schedules to juggle. My teens are focused on part time jobs and going out with friends. I wanted to replicate the holidays of my memories but it never quite works out. I tried changing my expectations and so that my feelings wouldn’t end up hurt but then I found that my children had expectations of their own that weren’t being met. The whole holiday season felt like a mess and I found myself waiting anxiously for January. I was lamenting to an older friend who has navigated the holidays with hundreds of foster children, adult children, grandchildren and currently some younger teens as well. She gave me the most valuable advice, “Sit down with your children and ask them face to face, what traditions are important to them and tell them what things are important to you. Make a plan for how to do as many of those things as possible together.”

Simple, right? It is and I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of it before. Communication is key to all relationships so Mike and I talked to each older child and explained that we were trying to create our own traditions as a family but we are kind of starting from scratch. We asked each child what they love doing and picked out dates to do that thing. We can’t fit everything in but we discovered that their expectations were simple. They wanted to do things that were pretty easy to accomplish. We haven’t been able to do all of the things together but by communicating, we are also avoiding the land mines of hurt feelings that come from unspoken expectations.

Here are some of the things our children wanted to do during this Holiday Season.

  • Bake Cookies
  • Town Tree Lighting Ceremony
  • Advent Devotions as a Family
  • Christmas Concert
  • Zoo Lights
  • Watch Christmas Movies in our PJs
  • Children’s Museum
  • Make Gingerbread Houses
  • Visit Grandparents
  • Attend Christmas Eve Service
  • Volunteer to Help Someone

Together we are learning to set reasonable and attainable expectations for the holidays. Our newest and best tradition is communication.

What family traditions are you doing this year? Are you starting anything new? Share with us in the comment section below this post.

Share This Post

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on reddit
Share on email
Mike and Kristin Berry are the Co-Founders of The Honestly Adoption Company and have been parents for nearly two decades. They are the authors of six books, and the host of The Honestly Adoption Podcast.

Sarah Gray

Sarah Gray is the executive assistant to Mike and Kristin Berry. And she is the best in the land. In addition to providing a warm and friendly response to the many emails our company receives on a weekly basis, she also manages Mike and Kristin’s speaking and meeting schedules, and makes sure that team events go off without a hitch.

Nicole Goerges

Nicole Goerges is a Content Contributor & Special Consultant for The Honestly Adoption Company. She works with Mike and Kristin as a recurring co-host for the Honestly Adoption Podcast, and co-host of Kitchen Table Talks, exclusive video content for Oasis Community, along with Kristin. She is a fellow adoptive mom, and former foster parent.

Matt McCarrick

Matt McCarrick is the Content Production Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. If you’ve loved listening to our podcast, or enjoyed any of the videos trainings we’ve published, you have Matt to thank. He oversees all of our content production, from video edits, to making sure the tags are correct on YouTube, to uploading new videos to Oasis, to hitting publish on a podcast episode, he’s a content wonder!

Karen Anderson

Karen Anderson is the Community Engagement Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. She spends the bulk of her time interacting with, and helping, people through our various social media channels, as well as providing support for Oasis Community members through chat support or Zoom calls. In the same spirit as Beaver, Karen is also passionate about connecting with parents and making them feel loved and supported. Karen is also an FASD trainer and travels often, equipping and encouraging parents.

Beaver Trumble

Beaver Trumble is the Customer Care Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. Chances are, if you have been in need of technical support, or forgotten your password to one of our courses, you have interacted with Beaver. He is an absolute pro at customer care. In fact, he single-handedly revolutionized our customer care department last year. Beaver is passionate about connecting with parents and making them feel loved and encouraged.

Kristin Berry

Kristin Berry is the co-founder of, and Chief Content Specialist for, The Honestly Adoption Company. She spends most of her time researching and connecting with guests for our podcast, as well as direction, designing and publishing a lot of the content for our social media channels, blog and podcast. She loves to connect with fellow parents around the world, and share the message of hope with them.

Mike Berry

Mike Berry is the co-founder of, and Chief Marketing Specialist for, The Honestly Adoption Company. He spends the bulk of his time and energy designing and building many of the resources you see within our company, as well as social media and email campaigns. His goal is to use media as a means to encourage and equip parents around the world. He is also the co-host of The Honestly Adoption Podcast.