Blink—And They're Grown

Parents, Families and Child Care

Family Rituals

We don’t have too much ritual in our life anymore. And these life symbols which people rely on to keep their feeling of well being, that life is not too bad after all, are required more and more. – John Hench

I arrived home late Tuesday evening, exhausted, and asked my husband if he would put our daughter, Gabrielle, to bed. I heard him pull the covers over her and kiss her goodnight. But within ten minutes, she was calling for me. Her voice got louder and louder as she called for “mom.”  Reluctantly, I left my warm quilts to go see what it was she wanted. As I put her to bed again, she reminded me to pray, kneeling at her bed and motioning the sign of the cross. She wanted me to say our prayers together. I said, “God Bless,” and Gabrielle continued with Rory (a former pet), mom, dad and her brothers.

After her prayers, Gabrielle was asleep within a few minutes. I started thinking about the impact a change in routine can have, like the one I’d tried to do that night. Rituals, like saying our prayers together each night, are important for a child, no matter their age.

Photograph courtesy of Bill S.

Photograph courtesy of Bill S.

I established routines with my children at an early age and didn’t think of their significance until they communicated their concern by questioning me. For example, I always make a big deal with their birthdays: making signs and placing them all over the house so they see them when they get up in the morning. When my son Jared turned 15, however, I didn’t make him any as I thought he was too old and would think they were for little kids. To my surprise, when he got up, he asked about his signs! Boy, did I feel bad. So for his next birthday, I made sure there were signs!

Prior to running errands, I always kiss my kids goodbye and tell them where I’m going and that I love them.  Well, once when I forgot I received a phone call from my son Jansen asking where I was. I explained to him I was at the grocery store and I asked if he needed something while I was out. He said no. He said he didn’t know where I was and just wanted to know. I now make a point to tell him as well as text him where I am and when I’ll be home.

A lot of importance is placed on establishing routines with very young children, but Gabrielle, Jared and Jansen have made me aware that rituals matter to them, too, even as teenagers. They have taught me to never underestimate the significance of rituals. Even though I didn’t think my children cared, I realized that rituals create a comfort in knowing they have a strong foundation and a sense of security. Routines and rituals let them know they can rely on their family.

– Diann

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