Question: What do Halloween, Thanksgiving, and the first day of school have in common?
Answer: We have family rituals for each of them.
Rituals, whether created purposefully or accidentally, give kids a sense of predictability and comfort. From the time my children were babies there was a clear bedtime routine—dinner, play, bath, book, and bed. As they grew it just became what they did at night. That one time we took them for ice cream after soccer practice? It became embedded in their minds as something we had to do every single time. (Who doesn’t like ice cream? Of course we went!)
Let’s face it—we all have busy lives. Routines offer the structure that children thrive on. They know what’s coming next. And we know what’s coming next! It helps everyone move through the day, the week and the month when we know that certain things happen at certain times.
Coming home after a day in first grade my oldest child had snack, did homework and went off to play. By the time the second and third child got to that stage I didn’t have to say anything. It was part of family life. It became our daily ritual. As my kids grew and developed their own way of doing things completing homework was hardwired in to their daily plans.
Rituals aren’t just about tasks like bedtime and homework. They’re also about fun. My husband and I have always been huge Star Trek fans (truly dorky, I know). Every week when it was on TV we sat down with our kids and a big bowl of popcorn and watched it. Given their ages at the time I’m not convinced they understood it, but they didn’t care. It was this goofy thing that our family did together. It was our ritual. And I’m proud to say that I have added 3 Star Trek fans to the universe!
Think of the places in your life where a ritual would bring calm.
- There’s too much going on we can’t cook night becomes…pizza night! A win-win for everyone.
- Dad or Mom is out of town night becomes…special time to watch that movie s/he is sick of!
- Oh, no, we’re late for school becomes frozen waffles in the car breakfast!
None of these happen every day, but they become part of your family story—your rituals. Embrace the big things you do for holidays but remember that families live on the little things that happen every day. Find your little rituals—you’ll all look forward to them.