Family rituals are symbolic exercises that foster a sense of belonging among the family members. They instil this feeling even in a subconscious way. They are just as simple as that special song to send you to sleep or during bath time gives the child a sense of security. These rituals might be inherited from our ancestors and still remain to be relevant to date. Examples of such rituals include the initiating of Christmas crackers with anyone on your left, or being in possession of a chocolate cake on a Sunday night, (Raising children network, 2006). Other rituals are created in families.
However, rituals ought not to be confused with routines. Family routines are patterned interactions among family members that are repeated over time but carry no important symbolic meaning for the family (Scholten, 2008). They involve the daily matters since they address the issue of what is supposed to be done. These include the regular chores, television time, mealtime, bedtime, etc.
Family rituals on the other hand can be attributed to holidays, family reunions, birthdays, Sunday dinner, and mealtime conversations among others. However the difference between the two i.e. family rituals and routines need not to be so this outright since they are bound to be accorded different levels of importance and meanings in different times. For example, a certain type of meal when served among some family members may appear normal whereas to other families if served especially during certain spiritual gatherings may be perceived to convey a distinct message or carry a certain meaning.
Family rituals are very strong in terms of their connections and relations. They strongly connect us to the past hence granting us comfort and happiness in the present. According to Christina Baldiwin, “Ritual is the way we carry the presence of the sacred. Ritual is the spark that must not go out” this is a reason why our traditions are still deemed important regardless of time. Family rituals however may include celebrations of certain cultural and religious festivals. The family can also go out sporadically owing to certain occasions and occurrences.
The rituals have been categorised into three broad sets by Steve Wolin and Linda Bennet (1984). These are the patterned interfaces that appear to be quite normal frequent. These include dinner time and weekends. There are also domestic traditions that are performed idiosyncratically e.g. the vocational gatherings and finally the family celebrations
The way you wink at your kid when dropping them to school or the way you hug them back can be some form of routine. This may help in comforting them during weird circumstances. For example, if a child is used to listening to you read or narrate a bedtime story before lights are switched off, the tradition is bound to help them catch sleep easily when in a different location.
Even the busiest family has a number of activities that they enjoy when they are together that some of these activities become a routine. Whether going to church or going fishing together, or whatever, they are vital in building strong family bonds.
The most important aspect of family rituals is communication. When time is set aside for talks and discussions so as to catch up with the past events, activities and sharing of each other’s feelings, a stronger bond is created. However, care should be taken so as not to intrude the youngsters’ privacy. This is because this is the time they start asserting a greater sense of independence. However faced with problems, they may opt to keep it to themselves. Sometimes it is better to have personal conversations without any other third party as this will build honour and trust between you and the child. Some other families have set aside some time of the week when they meet and discuss about relationships, plans, issues and their experiences. This gives everyone in the family whether young or old to express themselves and get the chance to participate and be heard.
Shopping together as a family enables the family members to spend intimate moments together. These moments are full of fun especially to the young. If given a chance to come up with a shopping list, this will boost the child’s confidence. Providing them with a chance to unpack the items is also another way of taking the confidence a notch higher. If a specific holiday tradition I created, the children are bound to be eager to be involved in the holiday as this will give them a chance to participate fully. This will boost their willingness to be ready to prepare and plan for the celebrations.
Religion also plays a vital role in providing an ethical tradition, a friends’ network, and a number of values that contribute to the well-being of the child. However, it is not advocated that one should belong to a specific denomination. There is a possibility of bringing up children with a solid spiritual life despite lack of a formal type of organised religious belief.
Scholars all over the world have developed an interest in the attempt to learn about psychic benefits of family rituals. “Through rituals, the family is able to build a shared meaning over time, therefore fostering family identity,” (Crespo, 2013). Through the family rituals, members are able to predict their expectations from each member hence making the family as a dependable group to be part of.
Research shows that a family that invest greatly family rituals is bound to give rise to children with positive motives and capabilities. This goes even beyond childhood, to adolescence and even to adulthood and this can be exhibited in the way they handle matters in their own families.
During their childhood moments, kids tend to be active in the family’s daily exercises. They are very willing to assist in most of the chores yet they are not able to. They are very keen observers and it is their wish to be included in any of the processes. This normal family routine exercises aid in shaping and enhancing the child’s development in terms of their behaviour and emotions. This provides the reason why it is important to have family rituals because they will really have a huge impact on the child’s development. However it is not a guarantee that a child who misses to take part or witness these rituals is bound to develop any developmental disarrays. It is only that these rituals play a big part in shaping the child’s psychological world. Such rituals give the parents a chance to analyse the child’s behaviour and relationships with the outside world.
A strong outcome cannot be accorded to either family routines or rituals. However, there is a significant influence in terms of social, academic and language development among children. The current conclusions about the influence that family rituals has on people are based on physical observations as seen when families are gathered or when they share a particular moment.
When people belonging to the same family are gathered together, they are able to build emotional connections hence giving rise to both negative and positive exchanges. Routine rituals have the capability of influencing emotional connections. Through rituals, on is able to derive emotional contentment during the parenthood transition. The way people conduct themselves and their interaction patterns are closely linked to rituals’ influence on their childhood socioemotional functioning.
During the initial parenthood stages, weaning, bathing, naptime and feeding ought to be incorporated in the daily activities. This has a great contribution towards the marriage’s wellbeing hence reciprocating the socioemotional alteration to the kid. This is quite difficult because even the happiest couples tend to develop difficulties when attending to the infant’s needs in turns. The transformation in family rituals is part of the families’ life cycles. Therefore, it should be understood that their effect is gradual. The transformation from couple hood to parenthood may be considered to be vulnerable but it is yet a crucial one since it is responsible for the establishment of reliable rituals.
The frequent family gatherings provide a chance to establish sturdy emotional links and are bound be maintained in future. Kubicek (2002) suggests that, “in families with young children, the emotional investment in routines starts with awareness that these settings are opportunities for learning as well for building relationships.” Emotional family connections are evident during mealtimes and their consequent influence on children has been witnessed among many families. These conversations are a clear implication of the family’s emotional context. “They are characterised by both verbal and non-verbal expressions offering parents opportunities for conversations about feelings, affect modelling, and empathy inducing statements,” (Herot, 2002).
“Research has shown that families with school-aged children, over half of the mealtime was spent in general positive exchanges, approximately 20% of the time directed toward family management issues, and approximately 10% of the time directed toward meal-related behaviour,” (Ramey& Juliusson, 1998). This is a clear indication that family interactions have been awarded much of the precious time whereas other activities take the remaining time. These family interactions have been discovered to have a direct impact on the children’s psychological behaviour and the overall mental health.
Most families possess that activity that they anticipate doing together. If by chance the expectations are not met, they tend to miss the activity. Rituals also ease life transitions since the individuals are able to identify themselves with particular values in accordance to the change in their ages. However, the rituals succeed in fostering the sense of autonomy whilst keeping the family ties intact. As much as family rituals differ from family to family, they are associated with a certain level of importance since they have a great impact on everyone involved.
The family rituals that we observe today were actually based on emotional connections. This is because the connections give the members a sense of belonging and mutual understanding. The effects are long term in a manner that one is able to remember their childhood vividly. The psychological and mental qualities cultivated during this time tend to accompany the individual till the later stages of life.
Spagnola, M., Barbara, F. (2007). Family Routines and Rituals. A context for Development in the Lives of Young Children. Vol 20, No. 4, pp. 284-299.
Stevin, J., Wolin, M,. & Linda, B. (1984). Family Rituals.
Crespo, C, Pryor, J, & Paul, J. (2008). Family rituals and their links to family functioning and youth wellbeing in New Zealand. Roy McKenzie Centre for the Study of Families.
Kubicek, L. F. (2002). Fresh perspectives on young children and family routines. Zero to Three, 22, 4-9
Ramey, S., Juliusson, H. K. (1998). Family dynamics; A natural context for revealing basic family processes.