Rituals in Families

What’s a ritual? It is a routine with meaning. Children love rituals. Repetition, the comfort of belonging, the sense of wonder, magic, and celebration — all create a bonding experience that nurtures both kids and parents. Rituals hold families together.

Why do we need rituals? It’s primal. They help us move emotionally from one place to another; they ease pain, acknowledge growth, and create connection.

Most parents discover early on that daily rituals like bedtime stories and goodbye hugs make separations easier and provide security. Traditions like taking a picture on the first day of school and carving pumpkins together at Halloween help children integrate the changes of the year. Rituals like building a sukkah together and Christmas Eve Mass communicate religious meaning in a visceral way. In our secular culture, many parents who don’t relate to organized religion develop traditions such as Thanksgiving gratitude practices to transmit their values.

Studies show that happy families not only have treasured rituals and traditions, they constantly evolve new ones that help them find their way through the inevitable changes of growing up. But don’t worry if you aren’t consciously “creating” rituals and traditions. Your family is naturally developing them, from Sunday morning pancakes to bedtime blessings. The way you celebrate birthdays or mark anniversaries, the way you say goodbye to each other every morning or shop for fall clothes each school year; anything repeated is a tradition, the stuff of which memories are made. You don’t need anything fancy, just love. What creates a tradition is revisiting it year after year, updating as your child gets older.

In a secular culture, many parents who don’t relate to organized religion find that rituals and traditions give the sense of meaning and anchoring they seek. All rituals reinforce values and create connection.

It’s a cliche that children grow up too fast, though it sure doesn’t seem like it on those long days when you just can’t wait to get them to bed. But when your kids look back, these are the memories that will define family for them. One way to insure that warm moments outweigh hard ones is to build traditions and rituals into your family life.

 

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Source: Aha Parenting

Photography: Mark Pratt-Russum

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