Military family traditions

Many families engage in traditions around the holidays. Some celebrate by exchanging gifts while others cook special holiday meals together. Keep in mind that family traditions don’t only revolve around the holidays­—you can create your own unique traditions anytime for your military family.

Family traditions are defined as repeated and patterned events that recognize the family as a special unit. They can range from everyday interactions (such as bedtime stories or conversations around the dinner table) to annual celebrations (such as the first day of school photos, birthdays, or anniversaries). Often, these traditions are passed down through generations.

For military families, traditions can be created during moments of change (such as after a PCS) or moments of separation (such as a Service Member’s deployment or TDY). Many military families also engage in cherished traditions related to PCS and other service-related activities. Since these moments of change or separation are repeated and often patterned, they provide military families with a unique opportunity to establish traditions.

Regardless of when or how they’re enacted, family traditions focus on the importance of family and help provide a sense of family identity. Traditions help family members feel stable, strengthen their bonds, and buffer against stress associated with change. If you have adolescents—often considered the most stressful stage of the family life cycle—you can help boost your children’s self-esteem and reduce anxiety by engaging in family traditions. Ultimately, these traditions benefit your health and promote close relationships. Try HPRC’s tips below for your own traditions.

  • Make traditions a priority. Change can be a challenge for military families, but traditions help offer stability and build resilience. Start things off by creating traditions that feel important to your family.
  • Get everyone involved. Family traditions are a group activity, and involving loved ones can encourage excitement for shared family time. Ask each family member which traditions they currently enjoy—perhaps they love homemade pizza on Friday nights—so you know which ones to continue. You can also ask them for ideas. Maybe you can make a family bucket list for each new PCS location or go on weekly hikes to explore your new town.
  • Be consistent. Once your family creates new traditions, do them often. Try not to skip a Friday pizza night or start writing that bucket list when gearing up for the move. Remember, consistency is an important way to maintain family stability and strengthen bonds.
  • Adapt when necessary. If there’s one thing that’s predictable about military life, it’s that military life can be unpredictable. Sometimes a family member might have to miss out on a tradition, so try to continue things despite their absence. Or view the separation as an opportunity to try something new. Maybe on Friday pizza night, your family writes letters to your deployed Service Member or watches a movie together. Or perhaps you switch from pizza night to “breakfast for dinner” while your loved one is on TDY. Adapt the family tradition to make it work for you, especially during uncertain times.
  • Have fun! The most important aspect of family traditions is to enjoy experiences together! No matter how big or small the tradition, or how often you do it, family traditions are an opportunity for quality family fun.

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