Although life with kids can sometimes feel like the movie Groundhog Day, daily rituals are pretty important for your little ones. A ritual is something that’s special to your family, that’s done in a certain way or order, and that sends a message to each member that you’re on the same team and working toward a common goal. Family rituals don’t have to be elaborate or unique – they just have to communicate to those involved that some kind of transition is happening. Kids benefit from learning family rituals because knowing what to expect next provides them with a sense of security and purpose. Parents benefit because, once rituals are established, kids are much less likely to resist the next steps – making for a smoother process. Here are some tips for creating both daily and special rituals with your kids:
- Bedtime and Wake-up Time are some of the most important times to establish rituals because they are the biggest transitions your child makes during the day. Having established rituals for these events that occur at roughly the same time every day (even on weekends!) is extremely important for promoting sleep and starting the day off right.
- Waking Up: Help him wake up gradually and positively by rubbing your child’s back, talking about the beautiful day, or taking some big stretches together. Once he’s up, have an established order of tasks – getting dressed, eating breakfast, brushing teeth – that you’ve agreed on ahead of time. If mornings feel rushed, consider waking him earlier so he can complete his routine without stress. Getting up earlier may require him to go to bed a bit earlier, too.
- Sleepy Time: Reduce bedtime struggles by keeping the same order of tasks every night, and adding in some special time, too. A fun nightly ritual is to read a page from one of the Bedtime Math books. Keep rituals at a reasonable length and take yourself out of the equation once your child is ready for sleep.
- School Time: It might also be helpful to have a special ritual for school drop-off like saying, “I love you to the moon and back!” or giving a big bear hug. (Note: these particular rituals may have to be amended when kids hit the tween years because, like, OMG).
Nothing makes your family feel more like a team than having some silly, fun things you do together, but only at special times. Between sports, lessons, and homework, it’s hard to have nightly Family Time without infringing on Sleep Time and Adults-Finally-Get-Some-Peace-and-Quiet-Time. Instead, set a weekly or monthly goal of having a special family ritual.
- Weekly Family Night: You might decide that Sunday nights are Family Game Nights, where you make popcorn and root beer floats and take turns picking a game to play. Other fun options: movie night, dance party, walk to get ice cream, or do a craft project.
- Monthly Family Night: If weekly isn’t possible, try a special activity the first Saturday of each month. One fun ritual is International Night, where you research another country as a family and then make and eat representative food. Create decorations beforehand and play music from that country while you eat.
- Holiday Rituals: Holidays are another great time to create Family Rituals. Make a Thankfulness Treetogether by writing or drawing on paper leaves one thing you’re grateful for every day in November. During the Christmas holidays, find a service project that you can complete as a family. Be sure to take pictures of your special rituals so you can look back on the memories!
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Kristen Berthiaume is a clinical psychologist whose other day job is as mom to three willing product testers. Find her articles on all things child-wrangling at “Parenting with a Ph.D.” over on birminghammommy.com.