Valley Voices

Family traditions don’t need to be big, they just need to happen

By Jill Simonian

Jill Simonian will be looking to create family traditions for her daughters this holiday season. Even simple traditions can pack meaning for children, she says.
Jill Simonian will be looking to create family traditions for her daughters this holiday season. Even simple traditions can pack meaning for children, she says. Fresno Bee file

As a mom, two themes endure every November for me — gratitude and tradition.

I’ll start with gratitude: Last year (during a most terrible time for my family) I wrote about challenging myself to give thanks when life turns tough — how we are all quick to automatically say thank you for the good in our lives, yet counting blessings during bad times also keeps us coping, living and dealing with life when it guts us.

Jill Simonian Special to The Bee Fresno Bee file

After all, the power of “Thank you” does so much more than we immediately give it credit. For years, I’ve practically brainwashed my daughters to always have those two mindful words at the front of their minds — whether someone gives them candy or whether we’re driving to school and say “Thank you God for this day” out loud. Saying “Thank you” has evolved into a sort of year-round, constant tradition in my family.

Which brings me to the other part of the approaching holiday season ... tradition: We’ve all got our own recipes, gatherings and to-do’s, some of which can be time-consuming and/or expensive. Thanks to ongoing work projects (as a parenting contributor), I’ve had dozens of child development professionals explain to me how important it is that children be raised with recurring family traditions — to keep them feeling connected, safe, confident and empathetic. The first time someone mentioned this to me, my response was, “As though we all don’t already have enough to coordinate? Who has time to invent and pull off ‘traditions’ between work/activities/errands and everything else we do as overwhelmed parents?”

And then, I was quickly and rightfully put in my place: “Traditions don’t need to be big,” my interviewee said. Oh. I was motivated right then and there to think about my own family history, our current family values and being present as a mom.

Some traditions that happen in my house?

▪ Friday night movie nights — our family plops on the couch with popcorn and Netflix.

▪ My girls drawing pictures at the kitchen table before dinner.

▪ Making fast “ice cream breakfasts” (yogurt with frozen fruit, blended) when it’s hot outside.

▪ Reading books before bed.

▪ Going to church on Sundays.

I also started a new tradition this year: Telling more everyday stories about my life as a little girl — things my mom would tell me growing up, things she’d most likely say to my girls now. (And yes, I say thank you, every day, that I am here to tell them these things ...)

Not exciting enough for you? Traditions don’t need to be big.

Whether we’re recreating that to-die-for pumpkin chiffon pie our Grandma used to make (the one that takes 2-3 rounds and countless hours of “setting in the ‘fridge,” thanks to the gelatin) or just saying “Thank you for this day” on the morning drive with our kids — tradition keeps love thriving and binds families together, whether we’re in a holiday season or not.

Jill Simonian was born and raised in Fresno and is creator of She is author of ‘The FAB Mom’s Guide: How to Get Over the Bump & Bounce Back Fast After Baby’ for first-time pregnancy. Connect with Jill on Facebook and Instagram @jillsimonian.