Family rituals: what are they?
Family rituals are special things your family does. Family rituals are a way of saying, ‘This is who we are and what we value’.
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 eating yum cha on Sunday mornings. 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. At these special events, you might invite extended family or friends to share in your family rituals.
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
- a special wink for your child at school drop-off
- your own rules for sports or board games.
A ritual could also involve a common interest with someone in your family, like going to football matches, camping or baking birthday cakes for family members.
Family rituals: why they’re important
Family rituals 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 comfort children in unfamiliar circumstances. For example, if your young child loves listening to you read a bedtime story before bed, this ritual will help your child settle to sleep when they’re in a different place.
Rituals help children feel that the world is a safe and predictable place. This is especially important in uncertain or changing times like 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 your family and enjoy spending time together.
Tips for fun rituals
These ideas can help you create fun rituals for your family:
- Make regular meaningful time together as a family, when you can enjoy each other’s company. For example, you might make time each week to talk about upcoming football games.
- 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’) before your child leaves for school each morning.
- Consider making a ritual for special occasions. For example, everyone chooses a decoration to put on the Christmas tree, or everyone takes turns saying one thing you love about someone on their birthday.
- Do something as a family. Each month a different family member can choose something they like to do. It could be a bike ride, watching a movie or a visit to a museum.
If you’re making new family rituals, it can be a good idea to have some guidelines. These might be guidelines about how much a new ritual can cost, how often you do it, and when it suits everyone best to do it.
When family rituals need to change
As your children get older, or when your family circumstances change, some family rituals might need to change too. For example, your child might want to spend more time with their friends or start a weekend job. Or you might be expecting another baby.
Changing a family ritual might be as simple as choosing a new time that suits everyone. Or you might need to choose a different activity – for example, if your child’s interests have changed.
Sometimes you might want to keep a family ritual, but your child doesn’t. This is when you might have to compromise. For example, you always have family birthday parties, but your child wants a party with friends instead of family. The compromise could be celebrating with family and friends on different days.
Letting go when things don’t work anymore will keep you and your family closer than if you force a family tradition because you really love it.