When you think about a ritual, what comes to mind? Often, people will initially think about a religious ritual or something to do with a secret club. At Dictionary.com, one of the definitions is “
Another way of talking about a ritual for most families is tradition. Rituals or traditions are a way of connecting with each other, making an event or occasion into something more special. What makes a tradition into a ritual is to make it more formal. With a ritual, everyone knows what is going to happen and who does what within it. A ritual is intentional, purposeful.
August is already half way over and school will be starting soon. Social media will be full of evidence that the first day of school has a ritual to it for a lot of families out there. In our house it means a picture in front of a specific tree in the front yard. In the past couple years we got smart enough to add the grade and the year on a sign as well.
Kids love rituals because routine helps them feel more secure. Many rituals are happy events, some form of celebration. We have rituals around birthdays, graduation, weddings and anniversaries. Couples benefit from rituals as well. According to Dr. Bill Doherty in “Take Back Your Marriage“, a ritual of connection must be repeated, coordinated and significant. It’s more than a routine, it’s focused attention on purpose with the intent to create emotional connection, and it has a specific time that it happens.
Rituals can also be a way to be playful or make a relationship repair or de-escalation. For example, in my therapy practice, I often help couples create a specific code word or action that is a way to signal that they need to take a step back when things are getting a little heated. Whenever possible, I want the word or action to be humorous because that often interrupts the pattern.
Rituals can even be an act of loving service that makes someone else feel important. I am a big birthday person because I believe it’s an opportunity to celebrate someone and create a personal little holiday. I have created a ritual for each of my family members for their birthday. They each get to choose what birthday cake they would like and I will make it from scratch, but that doesn’t mean I will get the decoration part right! My husband used to say he didn’t care about his birthday but now as it starts to get closer, he’s pretty excited about homemade carrot cake.
Finally, rituals can be tiny things that don’t take much time but still be very important. Times of transition are good times for a ritual that says “You are important”. Maybe it’s a kiss before leaving the house or going to bed, maybe it’s an “I love you” before any parting. How creative can YOU be?