Creating a Family Culture

Michelle Gumogda-Agustin and Family

One of my birthday memories stand out to me as awkward. I remember eight pairs of eyes staring at each other in silence, awaiting what would happen next. We had eaten spaghetti, and I think there was cake. It was my thirteenth birthday so I must have blown 13 candles. There were no games except for Truth or Dare. I can’t say it was fun because it felt awkward to me, so celebrating my birthday didn’t appeal to me after that.

Our family practices, routines, and habits all contribute either to the richness or poverty of our experiences. Our childhood memories impact our adulthood, influencing our behavior, decisions, and goals later on.

Fortunately, my view on birthday celebrations changed when I became a mother. My husband and I want our children to have meaningful memories. Birthdays, Christmas, New Year’s Eve celebrations and other special occasions are opportunities for our family to do something both fun and meaningful, something that teaches our children faith, values, and life principles. So we often take advantage of these opportunities.

Celebrating birthdays and Christmas are just one of the many ways that develop a family culture. Whatever it is a family does regularly — weekly family fun times, praying together, family vacations, etc. – all these contribute to shaping a family’s characteristics.

Building a family culture

I like Kim Ann Zimmerman’s simple definition of culture: “Culture is the characteristics of a particular group of people, defined by everything from language, religion, cuisine, social habits, music, and arts.”1 Translating this definition into the family, family culture would mean the characteristics of a family shaped by what they do together, their attitude towards each other, their faith, their habits, and of course, the food they like to eat!

What parents do to set common practices at home is definitely key. Think about it: the number of family breakdowns is going up. It’s easy for family members to grow apart when parents are busy providing for their needs. So building our family culture with purpose and commitment will help our children grow more bonded with family, more securely, will surely be enriching, and provide them with a wealth of godly principles to guide them through adulthood.

If you want to build your family culture, be intentional. Discuss this with your spouse. Dream for your family together. This is a job for both parents who agree on what they want for their family.

Start small and simple, but commit and be consistent. Begin by asking these questions:

  1. What do you want your children to remember about your family? How would you like them to describe your family to their children someday?

My husband and I want our sons to remember a home where God is often talked about and depended on, a home where love, laughter, closeness, grace, and forgiveness are real. It doesn’t mean having a home environment that’s spotless and trouble-free. It means we commit to thinking of ways to cultivate those through the daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly building of attitudes, habits, routines, and celebrations that will strengthen our family relationship and shape our sons’ values and identity.

  1. What one or two things can you start doing daily or weekly as a family that is fun yet provides some interaction and will shape your family culture?

Reading children’s books and Bible stories, asking each other our highlights and lowlights for the week (highlights are what made us happy, lowlights are the opposite), praying together and my husband telling made-up stories were some of our family’s routines during our boys’ preschool and elementary years.

With our eldest now 20 and the other two in their teens, playing board games, card games or games on their mobile phones, watching a video together, and going out food tripping on Maginhawa Street are things we do for fun. We also do weekly family devotions where we read a Bible passage and discuss it. My husband also commits to spend time with each of our sons once a week. Playing basketball, going to the gym to work out, and eating out are some of the things he does with each one.

  1. What celebrations can your family do yearly so that these can become traditions that teach values and faith to your children?

Going back to celebrating birthdays in the family, one of our three sons was in fourth grade when he came home from school one day and told us about a lesson they had about culture. Their teacher asked about their family traditions. After hearing his classmates’ examples, my son shared about a special red plate we use at home, with “Your Special Day” written on it. Whenever someone has a birthday, I take out this red plate for the celebrant to use. My son telling it to his class was an affirmation to me that he felt special using the red plate every time it’s his birthday. For us, the heart of birthday celebrations is making the celebrant feel important. Showers of extra love and attention have to be planned.

We also celebrate special events that exercise our faith.We have a New Year’s Eve tradition inspired by the time capsule. We each make a miracle prayer list, pray for them, put them in a metal box, and take it out on New Year’s Eve the next year to see which ones were answered. We thank God for those that were, while those that were not, we keep praying to be answered the next year.

What’s it like celebrating Christmas in your family? What about birthdays? What memories do you have of celebrating birthdays?

Without keeping their purpose and meaning alive, traditions can remain just that. When you start a tradition, be sure to communicate to your family why you’re practicing it.

Shaping your family’s characteristics is a process and it does take work. But it can be done. Here are other encouraging tips.

  • If you’re a single parent, you can intentionally plan your times with your child so they become meaningful. Start with having an evening routine before going to bed. Or have a date with your child, whatever the age. Be creative. Have a picnic in your living room with a blanket for a start. Later on, let your child choose what he or she wants to do with you.
  • Don’t give up when you miss out on some days or weeks. You can always revive it. We had missed doing family devotions for months, but we got back to it.
  • Some routines can be led by mom or dad only. Our reading times were often led by me.
  • Always involve your children in planning family activities, especially when they are older. We always consult our sons and give some options.

Most importantly, do everything in love. Our motive behind creating a family culture is to communicate love to our children and grow that love among us. Seek to keep your family together. Enrich each other. Build your family culture with meaning and purpose.


Leave a Comment