Children need to know that there is something they can count on, no matter what.
That's where the importance of family rituals comes into play. A solid foundation, belief system, and pattern of behavior give our children a sense of permanence and security.
It's never too late to begin a family ritual, but the sooner, the better. Young couples starting out in marriage can establish routines with future children in mind.
These rituals become a commitment and should be as strictly followed as is possible. Sharing your feelings about them will reinforce their importance to your children.
Some routines and rituals are for fun and some are laid as a solid foundation of security.
Ideas for fun rituals:
- The first snowfall means warm cider and cake donuts.
- The first day it hits 80 degrees, all girls in the family paint their toenails bright red.
- Guys night out at the steakhouse when each boy turns 10.
- Family photo in a certain spot (under a tree in the front yard, on the sofa, sitting in the bathtub) the first day of each season.
- No silverware Saturday.
- Birthday child gets to pick the meal, the flavor of cake and ice cream.
- Girls get ears pierced at 12.
- Family game night once a week.
- Friday night date night.
Ideas for ordinary daily rituals:
- Tuck each child in bed.
- Dinner at a certain time.
- One chapter of a book series at bedtime.
- Hug as everyone heads out the door in the morning.
- “I love you,” yelled from bed at night, naming each person by name.
- “What was the highlight of your day?” at the dinner table, each person answering in turn.
- After-school snack ready when they walk in the door.
- Bathtime from youngest to oldest.
Ideas for family traditions:
- Christmas Eve at grandparents and Christmas morning at home.
- Annual trip to the beach or mountains or some theme park.
- Easter egg hunt on Saturday afternoon before Easter.
- Back to school shopping trip with each child individually, including lunch or dinner with parent of choice.
- Oldest child sits in front seat when only one parent goes.
- Family celebrates parents' anniversary by recreating their first meal together (my parents did this every year with us kids—BLTs and Orange Crush).
- Inviting people with no family for Thanksgiving dinner.
- Making homemade chocolates for Valentine's Day.
- Memorial Day pancake breakfast.
- Work at food kitchen of homeless shelter for Thanksgiving.
What you do isn't as important as doing whatever you do consistently. Allowing your children to know that they can count on you, regardless. If this means Skyping the bedtime story because you are out-of-town on business, then that's what it means. If you have a busy week, get the afterschool snacks ready in advance. If you have a late football game, baths are still taken in order.
Routine is security. Tradition bonds families. Ritual creates comfort. Start out slow, and get one ritual down pat before you introduce another. These habits, particularly ones like studying the scriptures together or praying together, will likely be embraced and carried on when your children have their own families. They may roll their eyes now, but it will be important for them to know they can depend on these routines throughout their childhood.
Bedtime routines are particularly helpful. Have a checklist and go over it with your child. A good night's sleep in invaluable and developing sound sleep patterns is a lifetime achievement.
Checklist might include:
- Brush teeth.
- Take a vitamin.
- Go to the bathroom.
- Get a drink of water.
- Read a story.
- Five minutes of “How was your day?” or “Anything you want to talk about?”
- Say prayers.
- Tuck in like a burrito. My kids loved this and requested it. You pull the covers up to their chin and then with karate chop hands, tuck the covers under them beginning at their shoulders and all the way down to their feet until they are wrapped like a burrito.
- “I love you like crazy.” Or, “Sweet dreams.” Or, “Don't let the bedbugs bite!”
- Lights out.
This is one ritual you will be thankful for if you develop it. Well-rested children are happy children. Following the checklist will cut back on the frustration of excuses to get out of bed. Here are some more ideas on how to ease your family into a routine.
Start now, even if your kids are older, with one ritual and let them know that they can count on it. Then add another. Build these routines and watch the love and security grow.
Becky Lyn is an author and a 35+ year (most of the time) single mom. Visit
Becky Lyn’s Website. or write her at firstname.lastname@example.org