There is a very high suspension bridge we drive over on our way to the beach every summer. When we reach the top of the bridge and begin our descent, my children and everyone except the driver, lift their arms straight up as if they were riding a roller coaster. They hold them high until we reach the very bottom of the span. I don’t have to remind them to do this, it’s a family ritual.
We have other family rituals throughout the year, and they have significance because they are connected to a deeper meaning that only the four of us — my husband and our two children — share.
Look over these 5 keys to starting your own family rituals to inspire you to come up with some of your own.
1. Parent planning.
Before you present an idea for a ritual to your children, come to an agreement with your husband about how the two of you see the ritual playing out. Is your goal to have a fun family dinner every Saturday night? Agree on the role each of you will play to make it happen; otherwise, you might be the only one committed to seeing the ritual through.
My husband and I brainstormed when we decided to make a family ritual of our back-to-school feast. I’d make the dinner, and decorate, and he’d write a family newsletter that he would distribute once we sat down to eat. We’ve now kept this family ritual going for eight years, and the children still wear the paper crowns that I made them for our very first feast.
2. Sell it to the kids.
You might get a little resistance from your children at first, especially if the ritual has any kind of learning element, or presents a change in their routine or limits their freedoms. So present your plan with enthusiasm.
3. Plan by committee.
One you’ve shared your idea with your children let them get involved in planning the ritual. One of our favorite family rituals is sharing real hot chocolate on Christmas Eve. My Mom bought us a fun hot chocolate maker, and my children picked out the special mugs we use for that special occasion only. They assist in the preparation, but Dad is the chief hot chocolate maker.
4. Spell it out.
Make sure everyone is on the same page. Be clear with your expectations for your children’s participation. If they know what to expect they’re more likely to participate with a good attitude. This example might sound simple, but one of our family rituals is the first-day-of-school jumping photo. The kids know that before they leave for school, I will ask them to stand in the same spot they stand in every year and jump while I take their picture.
Some years they’re all in, other years they’re not in the mood for their first-day jump. But they know that it’s a family ritual, so they go along.
5. Protect it.
It’s easy to let other things encroach upon the time you set for your rituals. Fight for your time together and for your family rituals. Even if you have to make adjustments, stay committed. If you do, you’ll be making memories and bonding with your children, and that’s well worth it.
What’s your favorite family ritual?