Family rituals make family members feel good and create a sense of identity, security and belonging. Even simple rituals like a song before bed can hold special meaning for children and families.
Family rituals: what are they?
Rituals are things that only your family does. Rituals help you say, ‘This is who we are and what we value’. You might not even realise that you have rituals, but even a special song at bath time is a ritual.
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 going to yum cha on Sunday mornings, or having chocolate ice-cream on Friday night. Others you might create as a family.
Your family’s rituals might include celebrating religious festivals like Christmas, Chanukah or Ramadan. Your family might also have rituals for cultural festivals, like Diwali, Halloween or Australia Day, as well as for birthdays, Mothers Day and Fathers Day.
Your rituals might be things that no-one but your family understands. They might be:
- special morning kisses or crazy handshakes
- code words for things or special names you use for each other
- the way you always wink at your child as you drop her off at school
- something you always say as you greet each other or say goodbye
- a game in the car
- a restaurant you always go to after the movies
- your own rules for sports.
A ritual could also involve a common interest with someone in your family, like 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, having take-away food on Friday nights, or making particular kinds of flavoured jellies or cup cakes for family birthdays.
Family rituals: why they’re important
Family rituals like meals, cultural festivals, activities, and kisses, winks or handshakes give you and your children a sense of security, identity and belonging. That’s because they’re special things that you do together and they have special meaning for you. They create shared memories, and build family relationships and bonds.
Rituals can also help comfort children in unfamiliar circumstances. For example, if your child loves listening to you read a bedtime story before lights go out, this ritual will help him settle to sleep when he’s in a different place.
Rituals help children feel that the world is a safe and predictable place. They can be anchors that help your children feel safe in uncertain or changing times like during a family separation, or when you’re moving house, or after a traumatic event like a bushfire or flood.
Rituals can strengthen family values and help pass these values on to your children. For example, something as simple as Sunday night dinner together every week says that you value spending time with each other.
Tips for fun rituals
These ideas can help you create fun rituals for your family:
- At least once a month, make time for an activity your children enjoy. You could take turns suggesting ideas for the activity.
- Make regular meaningful time together as a family, when you can enjoy each other’s company. For example, you might make time every weekend to do the quiz from the Saturday newspaper together.
- Think about your daily routines, and whether there’s a way to make them more fun or special. It could be as simple as saying something affectionate (‘I love you’) or silly (‘Watch out for crocodiles’) to your child as he rides off to school each morning.
- Think about your relationship with each child and look for ways that you can add extra joy to your connection. For example, you might have a different song for each child, which you sing when you say goodnight.
- Get everyone to contribute ideas for mealtime conversations – for example, events and memories from your childhood, how you and your partner met, or that day’s events.
- Take turns to include friends in your family traditions.