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The Book of New Family Traditions

by Meg CoxRunning Press; $12.95



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As most parents know, children are creatures of habit. After becoming a mother herself, former journalist Meg Cox realized how much rituals and traditions contribute to creating the comforting environment that children crave. Cox spent years interviewing families across the country about their unique ways of commemorating holidays and other special events, and shares their answers in The Book of New Family Traditions. The book can help your family elevate ordinary days into special days and ensure that childhood milestones will be cherished events.

Cox lists the many benefits rituals and traditions can offer: They impart a sense of joined identity, provide comfort and security, teach values and practical skills, pass on a family's ethnic or religious heritage, and help children cope with loss, trauma, or change. Most important, they generate wonderful memories for children and parents alike.

The Book of New Family Traditions explores new customs for Christmas, Halloween, the Fourth of July, and Thanksgiving. It also suggests traditions that families can put into place to celebrate less familiar holidays, such as Arbor Day, May Day, and the Winter Solstice.

The heart of the book, however, lies in whimsical rituals, such as baking half a cake for a half-birthday celebration, or shuffling the family's meals (breakfast for dinner, anyone?) on Crazy Food Day. Noting that rites of passage are largely absent from modern Western societies, Cox suggests several ways to mark coming-of-age milestones—a girl's first period, getting a driver's license—as our children move toward adulthood.

In the section on "Family Festivities and Celebrations," Cox suggests a few ways for adoptive families to celebrate their children's adoption days, but the usefulness of this book for our families extends well beyond these. Post-institutionalized children are particularly dependent on routines to help them make sense of their world. Many of the rituals in the book can be used by adoptive families to help their children deal with difficult transitions and integrate into their new families.

The Book of New Family Traditions is also a handy general resource for parents. There is a bibliography and, for parents interested in learning more about family traditions, there are simple instructions for making calendars, posters, and other easy crafts, as well as guidelines for organizing family meetings, book clubs, and reunions. Every parent can find at least one ritual in this treasury that's worthy of incorporating into her own family's routine to solidify togetherness and create lifelong memories.

Reviewed by SUE GAINOR, an adoptive parent and a member of the national board of Families for Russian and Ukrainian Adoption (FRUA). She lives in the Washington, D.C., area, with her husband and two sons.

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