Family rituals are important to a families’ well-being and health, especially in an era in which we struggle to spend more quality time together due to the demands of work or school.
If you are a parent who worries because you do not spend enough time with your children or who finds it difficult to have fun together with your children, family rituals serve this purpose, strengthening your bond.
For the past 50 years, this claim has been verified in a study published in the Journal of Family Psychology of the American Psychological Association (APA). It concludes that family rituals can serve to strengthen adolescents’ sense of identity, children’s health, and even their academic achievements. Stronger family relationships are another advantage.
Rituals vs. family routines
The study was reviewed by psychologist Barbara H. Fiese, Ph.D., and her colleagues at Syracuse University, who explain that rituals are seen as a type of symbolic communication, and that they serve to transmit “what we are.” Their meaning depends on their continuity through generations, and they leave emotional traces in the memory of those who experience them.
This is what differentiates it from family routines, for example, which are seen more as an instrumental communication that conveys the message that “this is what has to be done,” and are more of a momentary commitment than anything else.
Still, any family routine has the potential to become a ritual as it moves from being an instrumental act to a symbolic one.
To explain the difference between one and the other more practically, consider that when we talk about family routines, we are dealing with daily living activities, such as household chores, setting a reading time, or visiting relatives.
Family rituals, on the other hand, are more focused on special dates and special situations, such as Sunday activities, Christmas, Thanksgiving, or Easter. Likewise, funerals, and the way we understand the end of life according to the teachings of Our Lord.
The study states that the healthier the children are, the better they regulate their routines as a family. A fact you should also consider is that the size of your family influences the shape of family routines and rituals.
The study highlights how larger families need the father to play the role of leading mealtime, and that the mother’s leadership role is more evident in smaller families. In the same vein, in families with only one parent, that adult spends more time interacting with the children, much more time than in families of the same size with two parents.
Regardless of your family’s composition, the repetitive nature of mealtime allows everyone in the family to get to know each other better. It helps us be more tolerant towards each other’s characteristics and encourages academic achievement in younger children.
I know your family is busy, the older ones with their jobs or college, and the younger ones with school, but the emotional value of a quick meal cannot be compensated for in any other way.
Think of it this way, an average meal lasts only 20 minutes. Is it so difficult to gather together for 20 minutes? I assure you, it is not if you intentionally set them aside for your family. It does not even have to be seven days a week. Three or four meals are enough.
Why are family rituals so important?
Family rituals are created as a way to celebrate, to bond, and to highlight the special ties that bind us together. But in my opinion, the most important aspect is the power they have to create new experiences and positive memories for everyone. Rituals can nurture connection in the family and give a sense of belonging that cannot be found anywhere else.
This impact is much more noticeable in childhood because it is a delicate time in life where we seek to understand who we are and why we belong to the family. What is it that we share? What is the message it has? Why is it special? These are all very important questions to answer.
By performing a family ritual, your child will feel part of something important and extraordinary, something that makes them unique and proud. It will also help them be more confident and more comfortable because these activities are familiar.
The benefits of family rituals
Do you still have doubts about whether continuing family rituals or creating new ones is a good idea? This reaches a higher level of importance as we are in December, since Christmas is a time of reflection and when sharing as a family is much greater than other times of the year.
- They serve to create good memories: Family rituals are a source of fond memories that will last a lifetime. The more attention and dedication you give to them, the more inclined your children will be to continue them.
- They provide safety due to their structure: Rituals are rituals because they follow a certain pattern each time they are performed. The fact that they are so predictable helps children feel confident and secure performing them.
- Gives the family a sense of belonging: We all want to belong to something, and, as a family, it is the rituals that give us that unique character and that feeling of being part of something.
- Other benefits: Additional benefits include the ability to transmit family and Christian values, as well as the ability to keep several generations interconnected.
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