Book Club: Dr. Reivich’s Pick05/02/2013
The Importance of Rituals
Positive Parenting by Dr. Karen Reivich
Next weekend my family will be heading down to the shore for a week. We always go to Cape May with my sister, Jen, and her family. That means eight kids, four parents, and a smattering of grandparents. It’s our big summertime ritual, started when my oldest nephew (now 20) was an infant. As the kids have gotten older, what transpires during Cape May week has changed, but there are some fundamentals that have persisted: Guy and my mom make clam chowder; Jen and I go on “power” walks, the kids play marathon Monopoly games that can easily last three or four hours, and at least once each trip we have a nighttime family volleyball competition on the beach. Our Cape May ritual also often includes an E.R. visit, but that is one we are hoping to discontinue this year!
Rituals are a great way to bring the family together. They take a moment or an experience and transform it into a lasting memory and a looked-forward-to event. They build connection. My family has a lot of rituals, from Cape May week to silly things like saying “see you in the morning when the milk man comes” (something my mom used to say to me before bed each night) and eating only red, pink or white foods on Valentine’s Day.
Traditions and rituals are especially important to children because they create a sense of belonging and security. Rituals are a way that families define who they are and what they value. And, quite simply, they’re fun.
Starting when Jacob and Aaron were five and Jonathan was three, we would end the summer by creating a “Best of Summer ” poster. I’d title the poster and write down a handful of sentences that they would fill in. Then we’d decorate the poster and hang it in the playroom. It was a fun way to remember the best of the summer as the school year started back up. I haven’t kept up that particular ritual with my sons (heading into 8th grade and high school), but Shayna and I carry on the tradition.
Here’s Shayna’s “Best of Summer 2012”:
- My favorite memory is going swimming at Aunt Jen’s house.
- The funniest moment was when Aaron was sitting on me and we were laughing!
- The best thing I ate was lobster at the restaurant in Santa Monica.
- The biggest adventure I took was going to Australia!
- The best time I had with my friend was when we were at a pool party and went down the slide.
- The best book I read was “The Sisters’ Club”.
- The biggest surprise was how cool the house was that we stayed at in Australia.
- The one thing I definitely want to do again next summer is play laser tag.
- The coolest art project I made was the 3-D poster for my room.
- One last thing I want to do this summer is have a Goodbye Summer party with my friends!
So as the Summer of 2012 rolls to a close, I encourage you to add a new ritual to your family. Designing the ritual can be as much fun as doing the ritual. Here are some tips to get you started:
- Make it simple and user friendly. If the ritual has too many moving parts it will be all too easy to forgo it.
- Make it meaningful. Build your ritual around a value that is important in your family, whether it’s keeping the environment healthy, doing acts of kindness, or being playful and laughing a lot.
- Let the kids design it. The more ownership the kids have of the rituals, the more likely they’ll want to do it.
- Be flexible. If the ritual starts to morph into something slightly different than in the past, just go with it. Ritual is not synonymous with rigid.
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