Parenting tips: Why rituals are important in family life
Rituals are things we do over and over again that become part of who we are and how we operate in the world. A simple ritual for many has become the first cup of coffee of the day, symbolising a beginning. For families and parents, it might be how you celebrate birthdays, high days or holidays. Regardless of what the rituals are, they do become an integral part of the fabric of family life. Part of our family brand, so to speak.
Why are rituals important in family life?
I believe rituals are an important part of:
- Creating shared memories
- Bonding as members of a family
- Creating emotional anchors to the family beliefs and value system
- Creating rites of passage
- Creating a unique family brand
What is a family brand and why is it important?
In the very ‘noisy’ world we live in, there is much interference that runs between children and their parents. I call this the noise of technology and the clutter of consumerism. Every brand is trying to connect with our children in some way to get a share of their heart, mind and to get some money out of our wallets! What this mean is that we as families have a lot of competition today, and every brand is screaming out a brand promise with values attached to it.
Understanding that families are a brand in themselves is important. We need to choose to compete – to be louder than, and more exciting than, these big commercial brands. And, remembering too, that we have one really big advantage – we get to connect with our kids face to face. What we do when we are together really does count because it connects deeply with our children who are longing to experience a sense of togetherness and belonging to the family unit. Family rituals can facilitate this beautifully, also helping our children to create their own identity and moral compass. Family is the primary values creator in society today and through family rituals we get to impart our values.
What’s the connection between Brand Family and rituals or traditions?
Brand Family has three pillars:
Rituals or family traditions convey our values, provide structure and create a feeling of togetherness and belonging. They provide a sense of ‘we are in this thing called life, together’.
Rituals are concrete experiences which give them much more power than a lecture from parents about the family values. Children learn best through real experiences that get them personally involved. The experience ultimately becomes the message, so to speak. The ‘doing’ leads to ‘being’.
This generation of children also live by the mantra, “Give me an experience and I will promise you a relationship,” which is another good reason to create memorable and creative family rituals.
Different types of rituals for kids
There are so many different types of rituals for different reasons:
- Eating around the dinner table
- Playing the Sweets and Sours game at dinner
- Having a family celebration plate
- Buy slap chips on the way home from church on Sundays
- Having take aways on Thursdays
- Have a games evening on Fridays
- Cooking a family roast on Sundays
- Where you stop to eat en route
- Games you play in the car
Family celebration rituals:
What you do for family birthdays
- Presents in the big bed on birthday mornings
- Decorating the doorway of the celebrant
- Balloons on their chair at the table
What you do for religious holidays
- Some specific rituals dictated by the religion concerned
- Eg. Fasting over Jewish and Islamic holidays
- Personalised rituals
Coming of age/rites of passage rituals:
- Baby naming ceremonies
- Christenings or blessings for babies
- Barmitzvahs/Batmitzvahs and other religious rites of passage
- Dropping the dummy
- Being allowed to light candles (the gift of fire)
- Coming of age – 21sts, etc.
- How we mark death in the family
Tell me about your rituals and family traditions
I’m really interested in how you do things in your family. Please share some of your special rituals with me. I am compiling a book to share family ritual ideas with those needing some inspiration. Send your ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org
And there is so much more!
To read more about how to develop your family brand, get hold of a copy of my book, Future-proof Your Child (Penguin, 2008) or book me to present a Future-proof Your Child or Parenting on the Run talk for your group in the work place, at your child’s school or for your parenting group.