When I was a kid I devoured the entire Little House series. There was something fascinating about Laura, who was actually a strong female role model during a time period when most action adventure heroes were boys or men.
Equally appealing were the warm times the family shared together: sitting at the fire telling stories with the winter wind howling outside, turning the little house inside out for a good spring cleaning, or just the simple day to day chores that a pioneer family carried out in the fight to stay alive out on the wild prairie.
Today’s modern families look nothing like those pioneers of yesteryear. Between texting, iPads, MP4s, laptops, video games, chat groups, and online games for preschoolers, families spend less time actually interacting together then they ever have.
Even during times that are traditionally family times, such as dinner or family vacations, parents and children often find that technology is an unexpected guest.
But regardless of whether you are part of the traditional mom and pop family setup, or you are a single mom or dad raising your grandchildren, research shows that children whose families spend quality time together are happier, have better self-esteem, are more resistant to peer influence.
Most people imagine that it’s the big stuff that brings a family together: the trip to Disneyland, the annual camp retreat at Lake Winnebago, or a visit to the Liberty Bell. In reality, while those also have the potential to bring your family together, they can also be a tremendous source of stress, even to the point of making things worse than they were before.
Rituals, on the other hand, are a great way to bring your family together without placing a whole load of stress on your family. Because rituals are predictable, they are something that family members can anticipate, as well as look back upon with fond memories. Plus, rituals usually involve the whole family, so each member can feel special and a part of whatever event you’ve got going on.
Many people think of rituals as occurring only during holiday times. In reality, any time can be a good time for a ritual, if you know how to set things up. Here are 7 tips you can use to create rituals that will bring your family together:
1) Involve the whole family
If you plan on creating a new family ritual, make sure it’s something that everyone can join in and participate. Older children and teens may initially complain about it, of course, but if you make an effort to treat each member’s contribution as equally important, those complaints will eventually fade out.
For example, if you plan on making a meal once a week that everyone must attend, let your children help plan the menu, shop, and prepare the food.
2) Don’t make a huge deal out of it
Of course you want this time to be special and meaningful and all that, but remember that the specialness comes from the event itself-not the hype around it. Plus, too much hype puts a lot of pressure on the participants to make sure that everything goes right. A better choice would be to be low-key about things, and let the success of the ritual speak for itself.
3) Make sure it’s regular
Ever hear of that children’s song called “The Mail Must Go Through?” The words go something like this, “No matter if it’s rain or snow the mail must go through.”
Now your family may not have the same delivery rate as FedEx, and being a family means that things sometimes happen. But it’s important that your children can count on that ritual occurring whenever you say it will.
Whether it’s a special breakfast on the first day of school, or a weekly dinner, make sure you do whatever it takes to keep the flame going.
Creating a family ritual may not be easy in the beginning. You’ve probably got enough things to do, your kids may complain, and your partner might think you’ve been reading a new self-help book again. But if you keep it up, your family will have the pleasure – years later – of remembering those special moments that actually made you happy to be alone with your family.