Why Creating Rituals is One of the Healthiest Things You Can Do for Your Family (Cherubs Magazine)

Ritual behaviour has been a part of family and community life throughout human history, and for good reason; rituals connect us with the sacred, the natural world, and each other.

Rituals that are separate from religious practices are often known as “nonrational”, as in, they’re not intrinsic or necessary.

But, as a someone who follows a holistic approach to parenting, I would argue that ritual within family life is completely necessary.

You see, as humans, we’ve evolved to want to (need to) be part of “the tribe”. In our hunter-gatherer days, our acceptance into the tribe meant survival, and those evolutionary survival instincts are still omnipresent within us today, even as fully evolved, modern humans.

Children still strive to be accepted into the family unit, which is why many children will take on the hobbies or interests of their parents. Take a moment to reflect on children you know whose parents are into sports, and whether their children are, and those who aren’t.

Though there are exceptions, on the whole, children subconsciously choose lifestyles that are congruent with their parents’ values.

As a holistic life coach, a big part of my work focuses on helping clients heal their inner child wounding, which in turn teaches them the merits of allowing their own children to flourish into whoever they are authentically meant to be, before we condition them out of it.

Rituals are different.

We’re not forcing our children to do something we love that perhaps they don’t; we’re helping to offer them a deep sense of acceptance and belonging in a world where community and connection is dwindling daily.

Something that always stuck with me from the Steiner approach to education / parenting, was to never tell a child “You are wrong.’ Instead, we reframe it to include the family unit as a whole: “We don’t do this.” By showing the child we are a we, we offer them a sense of belonging and show them how our “tribe” chooses to behave in a positive way. This helps the child feel that sense of belonging, which further encourages them to want to behave in that positive way because they learn that this familial behaviour fosters stability and peace within the family dynamic – if we single them out, all we’re doing is piling on the shame, which rarely leads to positive behaviour.

Rituals are essentially a way for parents to show an embodiment of their belief systems and values, in order to pass that down to the next generation.

Rebecca J. Lester Ph.D wrote of rituals: “One of the most important features of rituals is that they do not only mark time; they create time. By defining beginnings and ends to developmental or social phases, rituals structure our social worlds and how we understand time, relationships, and change.”

We may think that we’ve lost our ritualistic nature in 2023, but I’m optimistic. Think of all the rites of passage we still value: graduations, proms, baby showers, wedding traditions etc. We still embrace them at large, but are we doing it enough within the home?

When something becomes ritualistic, not only does it give everyone within the family (not just the children) a sense of belonging, but it also cultivates positive memories of specific moments in time, anchoring us to those memories with fondness, so that when we draw on childhood memories, we draw on them with warmth.

Rituals are also a great way to manage stress and anxiety, according to Scott Berinato at the Harvard Business Review. Based on that evolutionary perspective I mentioned at the beginning, it turns out that rituals are a powerful human mechanism for managing extreme emotion, stress or grief.

As someone raised within the Jewish community, I’ve observed this with the Shiva, a 7-day ritual we observe after someone dies. It allows the grieving family to always have people around to care for them during that initial period of grief straight after a death. Most cultures have their own versions of these, so let’s think about how we can integrate simple, meaningful rituals into our homes.

A great way to think about what sort of rituals you’d like to include in your home, is to consider the kind of childhood memories you’d like your children to hold dear when they’re older. Imagine your child as a famous adult, being interviewed on a radio show, and when the host asks them about their childhood, which fragments of that childhood would you hope they take with them?

Here are some ideas of rituals you can introduce into your home:

– Birthday rituals: what ritual can you draw on each year that marks the occasion apart from how they might celebrate outside the home? Waking up early to eat cake; presenting them with a book of their year – perhaps a member of the family honouring the mother during the children’s birthdays, after all, this was her birth-

– Daily Weekly gatherings: in my house, we dance after dinner most nights in the kitchen, letting loose, and we always get together to have a hot cacao on Sunday nights. We all sit around the table after the kids’ baths, set an intention for our week ahead and give gratitude

– Monthly rituals: full moon rituals are a beautiful way to honour the incoming season where we can teach our children the power of letting go of anything that no longer serves us, and setting intentions for our goals

– Festival rituals: can you create a ritual that is the same each year such as Christmas Eve family night, something you do on New Year’s Day, a way to mark summer or winter solstice, or anything else relevant to your culture?

There are so many ways to bring ritual into the home. Have a think about what aligns with your family structure and enjoy integrating ritual to create a richer and more connected family life.

Leave a Reply