By Lori Radun, CEC
We’ve started a new game in our home. Each night at the dinner table we each take turns asking another family member a question about himself. “So, Rick, how are you feeling about your interview on Monday?” “Mom, what do you want for Christmas?” Sounds like just a normal conversation, right? Well, there is a purpose to our game. We have two introverted boys who struggle with social skills. This game was created to better teach them how to communicate and take interest in other people’s lives. As adults, we are all required to be able to start a conversation with a new person or communicate our concern for the important people in our lives.
What is this new game we play called? There is no formal name, but this game is a family ritual, and family rituals help you create extraordinary families. According to the Webster’s Dictionary, a ritual is “any formal, customary, or ceremonial observance, practice or procedure”. Family rituals help define who your family is. Every family has a different way of doing things and your children will come to identify certain rituals as special, and they will begin to differentiate themselves from other families. Family rituals provide comfort and security. Think of the child that follows the same ritual every night before bed. Mom or Dad helps her get ready for bed. They read 3 books, talk about their day and end the evening with bedtime prayers. This child comes to expect this routine every night and this very ritual is what provides the trust that is needed between parent and child.
Family rituals build family bonds. My two boys have a special handshake they engage in to demonstrate their love for one another. It’s too complicated for parents, so we don’t even try to learn it. You can count on family rituals to generate a lot of wonderful family memories. I very clearly remember, as a child, going every Sunday to the donut shop with my parents. We would pick up our donuts and then go park in a parking lot somewhere. I would sit in the backseat eating my donut while my parents read the newspaper in the front seat. Now, it might seem like a strange ritual, but even today, as an adult, having a donut on Sundays brings back special memories. Lastly, family rituals can be used to teach values and practical skills. Without even knowing it, having a family game night is teaching your children patience, cooperation, and good sportsmanship.
There are five major purposes for family rituals:
- Family rituals are used to celebrate something. Rituals during the holidays are probably the most popular kind of ritual. Most families have a certain ritual they go through that helps them celebrate Christmas, birthdays, Thanksgiving, Cinco de Mayo, and other special dates. But what about celebrating the first day of Spring, the last day of school, golden birthdays, or report card day? The possibilities are endless.
- Family rituals can be used to smooth transitions and change. When it was time for my younger son to give up his pacifier, we introduced the “Paci Fairy”. We told him the Paci Fairy was going to come at night to take all his pacifiers and leave him a special toy. My son never asked for his pacifiers after that night. We all go through change in life, and family rituals can make those times of change exciting and normal. Consider introducing rituals for potty training, new births, 1st period for girls, 1st shave for boys, new drivers, and graduations.
- Another purpose for family rituals is to solve a problem. There are always family problems that need to be solved. Weekly family meetings are an excellent way to address those problems. Consider having chore rituals to increase family cooperation. I know of families that will go through a silly ritual when their child is having a temper tantrum.
- Family rituals should be used to help family members connect with one another. Mealtime and bedtime rituals are excellent ways to connect. Introducing family fun nights on a regular basis generates closeness. My older son and I have a special way we say “I Love You”. It is a hand signal we use that no one else understands. Connection in your family is critical to creating an extraordinary family.
- Family rituals are great for teaching skills and values. One great way to introduce values into your home is to create a “Value of the Month” program. Decide what your top 12 values are for your family and assign that value to a month. For instance, February is a great time to teach the value love, and November is perfect for thankfulness or gratitude. Incorporate special rituals each month that teach those values. Reading books, playing games, doing a family community project, and watching movies that pertain to that value are great ways to reinforce what you want your children to learn.
Think about the family rituals you already engage in. What rituals would be good to add to your family to create happier and closer relationships? What problems in your family need to be addressed, and how might you add a ritual to help with them? What changes or special days do you want to celebrate in your family? To get you started, I recommend having one solid ritual of connection daily. Create one modest weekly family ritual, and work in a monthly family ritual as well. Celebrate at least one family ritual for major holidays and birthdays. Remember, the purpose of creating family rituals is to equip your children with the skills and values you want them to learn, great family relationships, and wonderful family memories.
Lori Radun, CEC – certified life coach for moms. Lori is the author of The Energy Equation eCourse, Express Yourself! and The Self Esteem Series. To receive her FREE newsletter for moms and the special report “155 Things Moms Can Do to Raise Great Children”, visit her website.