Every month, either directly or indirectly, we discuss the foundation that is being laid for your children in these early years. Binding this foundation together is a gossamer material, which is encoded with emotional and intellectual connections that are designed to forge an adhesive that is unimaginably strong but flexible. This flexibility provides the shock absorption system that allows young humans to roam over the road of life as safely as possible.

Part of the emotional binding that is contained within this material comes from the traditions that a family holds true. Tradition is a wonderful gift that the whole family contributes to whether old or young. It can be only one generation old or have been alive for multiple generations. It is a part of your family’s identity, which is handed down to the children. It houses a family’s values and beliefs and allows everyone to have a sense of belonging.

The table, the food and family—this is Thanksgiving. It is the one holiday where the table and meal with family is more recalled with clarity than any other time in the year. This may have to do with the objective only being the meal, with little distraction. Across the nation, if we were to ask any group of people about this meal, they would most likely begin their answer with “It is our family tradition…..”

Rockwell, Thanksgiving.jpg

Possibly it was Norman Rockwell who defined this time of year with the painting the Freedom from Want.

Rockwell captures the look in the family members’ eyes that conveys the feeling of warmth and kindness that is felt at that moment. Everyone at the tables is welcome and belongs. Although the 1942 portrayal of the American family is not an accurate representation given the great diversity of our country, the sentiment does translate beyond ethnicity. The emotions that can are seen on the faces show a sense of connection, love and value within their community.

The best description of tradition is that of being a reservoir that holds the past and present, which we share in order to provide the strength for our children to forge the future. Below is a list of what traditions brings to a family. As you read the benefits, a sense that a person receives for more than they imagine from these moments resonate.

Some of the benefits are designed to be shared by other family members who carry the baton while imparting the nuggets of wisdom that all children benefit from and find their identity within.

The benefits of tradition are

  • Sense of shared identity & belonging
  • Sense of structure
  • Teaching culture heritage
  • Imparting family values
  • Help navigating change
  • Help problem solve together
  • Develop practical skills
  • Comfort and security

It is good to keep in mind that tradition is not bound by a time of year. It is just that it rises to the top of the list around this time of year and becomes a focus. It is nimble and can be practiced daily; such as, reading a good night story, or weekly; Sunday morning waffles, or annually; Thanksgiving and other. All these repetitive moments, filled with love and support give our children the opportunity to learn why their family is a safe and unique place. Safety allows children to feel comfortable when trying something new and allows them to fall back whether the result is positive or negative. Although the benefit to the children always comes first, it’s important to mention that tradition also benefits the parents. As a family moves through life, venturing over milestones that will eventually move children out of the nest and out of daily contact, parents need these traditions to rely on as they transition from active parenting to advisory. As the family matures, these shared experiences and values give parents the ability to feel strong enough to let go. Eventually grandchildren will fill and expand the numbers at the table and provide rewards of their own but through the use of the tradition that is forged today and observed tomorrow all family will benefit as they pass through the cycle of life.

Family traditions counter alienation and confusion. They help us define who we are; they provide something steady, reliable and safe in a confusing world.
– Susan Lieberman, Ph.D.

Supplemental Material


Finwinnieding Winnie—The True Story
of the World’s Most Famous Bear
Lindsay Maltick, Illustrations by Sophie Blackall

The story of Winnie the Pooh, in its own right, is a tradition. This story has been read from one generation to the next and has been translated into many languages. This telling is not about Winnie the Pooh and Christopher Robin but it is the story how they were created. It is a lovely journey through beautiful illustrations and warm words about how the real Winnie, born in Canada, found her way across the Atlantic where she would eventually meet Christopher Robin.


readerThe Thanksgiving Reader
Seth Godin
A couple of years ago I came across the Seth Godin Thanksgiving Reader. It is designed to give everyone, at the dinner table, a contribution of words that can be reflected upon. I pulled it out for this month and share it in its PDF version

Seth Godin gives it away for free because he wishes to introduce reflection and give an alternative to the basic question of “What are you thankful for this year?” that many families use. After giving it a fresh review, I warn that some of the readings need to be removed because they require a more mature understanding of the world. A child of 7 or 8 w ould understand the moral of a reading where children of 3, 4, and 5 ar e too young to grasp the idea.


Question for Lonna

Throughout the twenty years of its existence, Playgroup has followed a consistent ritual of gatherings and experiences. From one student group to the next, there has been a set of activities and experiences that all the children could rely on. Lonna, please expand on tradition and how it adds to a student’s development.

Playgroup is a community where all cultural celebrations are honored, we see the common thread in Diwali, Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwanzaa is light.

The celebration of light is our theme in December. Light is hope. Light is knowledge. We string small lights to show our celebration, we sing traditional Christmas and Hanukkah songs, we hand make gifts for parents. We have a tradition of putting great emphasis on giving. The children are delighted to make something special to give away.

We work to help the children learn how to be gracious recipients of gifts. To support the tradition of gift exchange, we have had the children exchange books with each other. Prior to the exchange we practice how they will respond. We tell the children to always say thank you and look the giver in the eyes. Should they receive a book they already own or a book they do not think they will enjoy they are to keep that to themselves and be gracious. This is the most important part of gift receiving.

I am often asked what the most important thing a child can do to prepare for the Kindergarten screening. The answer is simple. Politeness, kindness, graciousness. An excellent opportunity to practice these skills is when receiving a gift.

At Playgroup we model this. If given a gift or a cup of water, teachers always show appreciation. We want people to say of our children, Playgroup children are kind, thoughtful and polite.

During the frenzy that is an adults holiday season, we all should help our children practice gratitude. We celebrate the light we all bring to our community. We celebrate this brightness in our children’s future.


Health with Dr. Dana
lisadDr. Lisa Dana has been a local pediatrician for over twenty years and was a Playgroup parent for at least ten years. Dr. Dana serves on the Playgroup Board and advises Lonna on medical matters when needed.

Lonna asked Dr. Dana, with holiday travel, how do I keep my toddlers on a sleep routine?

Enjoy the vacation. Enjoy late nights with family, and dinners with baby in tow. They will be off their regular sleep routine and that is okay. The key to a successful holiday is to make sure your babies and toddlers are well hydrated and maintain a good meal routine. Breast feeding is the best for travel. It is always a clean, reliable source of nutrition for your baby.

You will pay a travel penalty when you get back. If you are gone for three days, it will take you three days to get back into your sleep routine when you are home. If you are gone for a week, it may take a week.

Dr. Lisa Dana was born in Bologna, Italy. She attended University High School and went on to complete her undergraduate education at UC Santa Barbara. She attended Georgetown University for Medical School. She completed her Internship and Residency at the UCSF. Dr. Dana is on the clinical faculty at UCSF, and a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics. She works as pediatrician at Golden Gate Pediatrics in San Francisco and Mill Valley.