I am a big believer in family rituals – and here's why they actually matter
Ever since my first child's very first birthday, I have covered the floor of their room with balloons for when they wake up in the morning on their birthday.
Pink and white balloons for her birthday, blue, green and white for his.
My eldest is now 10, and so it is safe to say this has now become a birthday ritual in our family. In fact, the last couple of years, my children have blown up balloons to cover my bedroom floor for my birthday, and so now, the circle is complete.
We have other rituals too – yearly ones, like new, matching family pyjamas for the Late Late Toy Show, Christmas Eve milkshakes & mimosas at a local favourite café and Easter egg hunt with the cousins.
And then, a whole bunch of smaller rituals that take place weekly and even daily.
For instance, every Friday in our house, we have Pizza Friday. We all get in the kitchen, get stuck in making pizza dough from scratch, then everyone assemble their own pizza, and then we eat them in front of a family movie night. Sometimes, we have guests over, other times it is just us – but Pizza Friday is a routine that always takes place, and I think we all love it for so many different reasons.
Other rituals we have, for instance, is that I always change all the bed linens in the house on a Friday morning. Then before bedtime, the kids always have a bubble bath and we all climb into the fresh, clean bed to read not one, like on any other night, but two stories.
We look forward to our Fridays all week, it feels like a bond we have, just our little family, and I love how it, in our family, just kick-starts the weekend in the loveliest, chillest way possible.
Another little family ritual we have are our Sunday morning pancakes. My 10-year-old makes fluffy, chocolate chip pancakes for us all – and then we set the table properly, with nice plates and candles and proper napkins - and all the most delicious condiments, and again, it has just become this little rituals we cherish and look forward to as a family.
Rituals promote bonding
If you think rituals sounds more stressful than lovely – you know, commiting to doing certain things the same way over and over again every week – or month or year, hear me out. Rituals, actually, are important as they promote bonding and is something that everyone looks forward to.
These funny or sentimental things that only your family does are actually a key part of what it means to be a family. In fact, even something small, like reading your kid a bedtime story each night, can be a meaningful ritual. And although these sets of behaviours may seem trivial to you, they’re actually pretty crucial for your children's wellbeing.
What Are Family Rituals?
“All families have rituals,” explains Karen Caraballo, a child and family clinical psychologist in New York City, to Pure Wow. “Rituals are symbolic acts that we consciously repeat.”
"Some of these acts have been passed down from previous generations, while others are created within the immediate family unit. They can happen during important events and celebrations, such as weddings, anniversaries and graduations. But rituals can also happen on a smaller, more frequent scale. Think: kissing before starting the day, hugging when you say goodbye or enjoying a special breakfast on Sundays."
And so why are rituals so important?
“Family rituals foster a sense of belonging and identity, and are important for children and their socio-emotional development,” Dr. Caraballo explains.
"These traditions and behaviours allow children to feel part of a group. They also provide structure and reduce stress through predictability."
Like Pizza Fridays at my house are predictable. Or the rituals of getting into our matching family pyjamas for the Late Late Toy Show every year makes us feel so close, like this is our family thing.
“A predictable home environment helps children feel safe, secure and looked after,” Caraballo says.
Another benefit of family rituals? They help to define roles and responsibilities within the family unit, as well as beliefs and values.
“If families don't have rituals, they may be stressed on an everyday basis,” warns the family therapist. “Rituals ground families and help calm people, especially in times of great change. In times where there is so much external uncertainty and fear, children need to know and feel safe. Rituals are opportunities to connect and reconnect. They create comfort and happiness.”