Post image for The Importance of Family Rituals

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With all our cross-cultural moving and family upheaval we’ve had this past month, this post’s topic has really been on my mind lately. It was first published on April 10, 2009 — hopefully you can appreciate it all over again.

Every Friday, no matter how hectic or stressful the week has been, my husband and I have a ritual to celebrate the weekend’s start. We crack open a bottle of wine, plug in the iPod to its speakers, and roll up our sleeves in the kitchen. I make dough for the pizza crust, and my husband chops, sautees, and grates the toppings.

In the spring and summer, we open the kitchen door that leads to our balcony, where we have a view of the bay, the kids playing in the courtyard, and the evening breeze. The sauce I made in bulk has thawed, and because we work together, dinner takes 30 minutes max to prepare.

Our four-year-old daughter enjoys topping the rolled out dough with sauce, cheese, and veggies, and the baby plays with the Leap Frog fridge phonics. While the pizza bakes, we whip up a simple salad. Our background symphony is anything from Jack Johnson, to Sufjan Stevens, to Coldplay, to Mozart, to Ella Fitzgerald, to The Shins.

We then sit down to eat, either at the dining table, or on the balcony. Oftentimes, we end with a simple dessert and coffee, and when the kids go down, my husband and I break out a board game.

It’s a great start to the weekend.

The Importance of Family Rituals

This little tradition of ours isn’t complex or costly, and it takes no advanced planning (except for the pizza sauce, which I’d make anyway, for dinner). But it’s something we all look forward to, and it’s become a little something that says “home” to us.

Kids love traditions and family rituals, because it fosters a sense of belonging and security. They also thrive on routine, so rituals only add to that need.

Adults who work outside the home can really benefit from a simple family tradition to look forward to on the ride home. And adults who work inside the home can anticipate that ritual as something to mark the end of a work day. I know I do.

Don’t Wait for a Holiday

Sure, those Labor Day barbecues or Thanksgiving backyard football games are great. But don’t wait for those holidays on the calendar to create a family ritual. Make traditions part of your family culture, and celebrate them often. Make it part of your family’s mission statement.

Photo by Rosana Prada

Here are a few tips for creating that tradition of yours:

Keep it simple. That way you’ll do it regularly.

Keep it inexpensive. That way, you’ll look forward to it, instead of letting financial anxiety build up.

Include the whole family. If your husband doesn’t enjoy cooking, make it a popcorn-and-movie tradition. Or if your kids are too young to enjoy Trivial Pursuit, make it a weekly walk to the park.

Do it regularly. Monthly is great; weekly is even better. By definition, a ritual is done often.

Make it fun. I say either make it relaxing, or make it active. Veg with a Netflix rental, or hike the nearby trails.

Make it true down time. Turn off the cell phones and laptops, and don’t talk business.

Chances are, you already have some sort of family tradition. And if not, there’s a bourgeoning one within your troops, and you only need to make a concrete plan. Do something fun as a family over the next few days, and who knows – maybe you’ll start doing it each weekend.

What simple family ritual does your clan enjoy?


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