Study Shows Lost Family Traditions Are Making a Comeback During the Pandemic

A new survey shows parents are bringing back lost traditions during the coronavirus pandemic. Here are the ways families are coming together and having fun.

Game nights. Homemade obstacle courses. Sundae Sundays. These are just a few of the family traditions suddenly experiencing a resurgence during the COVID-19 pandemic. And it's not just because families are stuck at home and looking for ways to make life more enjoyable. It's also about a deeper shift in how parents think about the rituals they had left behind.

This was a finding from the 2020 Passion Points Study, which my company, The Family Room, just released. For the past 15 years, we've been looking for the "emotional drivers" behind the decisions people are making. We find these by surveying 30,000 people, including 12,000 parents, across a dozen countries. We ask them about 150 different "passion points" to determine which are foremost on their minds, and which are getting more important than the previous year. We get quick answers so that the responses reflect their gut reactions.

Starting in 2017, we noticed parents were showing less interest in preserving traditions from the past—things they used to do when they were growing up, or things they did in their children's earlier years. We found that following the U.S. presidential election, many parents felt fed up with the way things were. They wanted to focus on building new ways to live and new traditions that spoke to the time they were living in.

Then came the pandemic.

Family game night
Caitlin-Marie Miner Ong

This year, the number of parents who cited a desire to "celebrate, protect, and strengthen our family traditions and past" jumped by 18 percent for moms, and 14 percent for dads. They described a sense of rediscovering the togetherness that many of these traditions embody. While the phenomenon of bringing back traditions was broad, the traditions themselves were unique to each family. Here are a few that parents shared with us:

Bringing Back Game Night

"Normally, my wife is working until 10 p.m. and the kids are in bed when she gets home, then she's on call over the weekend," a dad of two told us. Now, with both parents home, his family has brought back game nights. "The kids fought it at first since it meant no phone or Xbox. But they don't fight it as much anymore, and we are having a lot of fun playing and laughing! The question becomes: how do we keep that going when the rat race starts again?"

Playing Charades

"I honestly don't think I have played charades since I was 7," a mom of two told us. "It was hilarious, especially when I had to be a turtle—and my husband and I had a few drinks in us! I almost peed my pants I was laughing so hard."

Making Kid-Designed Obstacle Courses

"When I was growing up my family had a weekly obstacle course race," a dad of two told us. "Each kid took turns setting up the course. Now, we were trying to think of things to occupy the kids and I remembered how much I loved these. My favorite part was having my parents do them with us. We are doing them a few times a week right now. I hope we continue after this is all over."

Enjoying Pizza Night

"We reinstated pizza and movie night in our house," said a father of three. "We did it when the kids were younger, but life got in the way and we stopped. Part of it is having more time to do it, but the other side of it is that my wife and I have realized how important it is for us to make time to just be together."

Leaving Room for Dessert

"We've started doing Sundae Sundays again," a mom of two said. "This was our tradition before kids and when they were little, but then we changed our eating habits a few years ago. Now, we make ice cream sundaes every Sunday night and watch a movie together. It's a really nice treat for the kids and gives them something to look forward to during the week."

With all this resurgence in parental nostalgia, it's small wonder that when asked about the kid and family TV shows that fit best their needs right now, three of the top five responses were programs or characters created 35 to 50 years ago. In the world of leisure, meanwhile, more parents are buying Legos—not just for their kids, but for themselves too. We also found something of a resurrection for "old-fashioned" package food products which, despite being processed, have suddenly taken on new life and relevance as a taste of parents' past.

Our research shows that big “passion point” shifts last for years to come. So don’t be surprised if these rediscovered traditions stick around long after the pandemic has passed.

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