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Even simple rituals like a song before bed can hold special meaning for families. Rituals make family members feel good and create a sense of belonging by letting everyone know what’s important to the family and giving everyone a sense of identity.
 

Family rituals: why they’re important

Rituals are things that only your family does. They help communicate ‘this is who we are’ and give you a sense of belonging.  

You might not be aware that you have rituals, but even a special song at bath time adds to your child’s sense of security and belonging.

Some rituals might have been handed down from your grandparents or other relatives, like always opening Christmas crackers with the person on your left, or always having chocolate cake on Sunday night. Others you might create as a family.

Your family’s rituals might include celebrating religious and cultural festivals. Another kind of ritual might be going on a special outing with just one other family member. A ritual can even be a crazy handshake, a game in the car or the way you always wink at your daughter after you drop her off at school. They all help build family ties.

Rituals can help comfort children in unfamiliar circumstances. If your child loves listening to you read a bedtime story before lights go out, carrying on that tradition will help him sleep when he’s in a different place.

Rituals and routines add to your children’s feelings of security and predictability.

Research shows that rituals can strengthen your family’s values (in the same way that traditions, family activities and gatherings do) and help pass these values on to your children. Rituals also teach children skills like how to interact with others.

Different kinds of rituals

Rituals are often linked to religious festivals like Christmas, Chanukah or Ramadan.

Your family might also have developed rituals for birthdays, mealtimes, bedtimes, weekends and cultural festivals, like Diwali, Halloween or Australia Day.

    Your rituals might be things that no-one but your family understands – special morning kisses, code words for things, a restaurant you always go to after the movies, unusual food combinations or your own rules for sports.

      A ritual could be a common interest with someone in your family, such as going to football matches, studying insects, watching a particular TV show or playing a favourite board game. It might be riding bikes on Sundays, making scrapbooks, arranging family photo albums or making all kinds of different flavoured jellies or cup cakes.

        Tips for fun rituals

        • At least once a month, make time for an activity your children enjoy.
        • Get your children to suggest something they’d like to know about you or your family – for example, your childhood or how you and your partner met – and make it part of a mealtime conversation.
        • Look through old photo albums so your children can find out more about your family history.
        • Gather suggestions for mealtime conversations, perhaps from the newspaper or the day’s events.
        • Allow family members to take turns offering ideas for family activities each month.
        • Take turns including friends in your family traditions.
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        • Last Updated 08-05-2012
        • Last Reviewed 15-05-2006
        • Fiese, B.H., Tomcho, TJ., Douglas, M., Josephs, K., Poltrock, S., & Baker, T. (2002). A review of 50 years of research on naturally occurring family routines and rituals: Cause for celebration? Journal of Family Psychology, 16(4), 381-390.

          Howe, G.W. (2002). Integrating routines and rituals with other family research paradigms: Comment on the special section. Journal of Family Psychology, 16(4), 437–440.

          Schuck, L.A., & Bucy, J.E. (1997). Family rituals: Implications for early intervention. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, 17(4), 477-494.