by Kristin Kuiper, LMSW, MSW
I’ll admit that I’m dragging a bit this week. I just returned from a trip out to Seattle —so add a three hour time difference plus daylight savings time and this equals the need for some major sleep catch up now that I’m back in Michigan! Getting away and exploring this awesome city was wonderful but the primary reason I was in Seattle was to attend a practical and useful training on a particular method of therapy (www.gottman.com). Even though this therapy is specifically for couples, I walked away with some insights that may brighten and strengthen your family life as well.
At this training, and in a book that I just finished and highly recommend, The Intentional Family, the importance of building family connection and closeness was emphasized. The word that is commonly used with this process is ritual. A ritual is something in family life that is meaningful, is repeated, and is coordinated with other family members. Developing rituals of connection add many important things to family life, including:
- Predictability: a sense of order is essential for children to feel secure and safe
- Connection: rituals build the strength of relationships among family members
- Identity: a ritual can add to the understanding of what your family is about and what makes your family special
- A way to live out values: rituals can show what we believe in or show what gives us meaning and purpose
There are often rituals developed around mealtimes, bedtimes, holidays, family gatherings, among other times.
For example, a simple ritual around leaving for work could involve giving a hug to each child and encouraging them to share one thing that is coming up for them in their day. Leaving in this way takes on a new meaning rather than hurrying chaotically to get out of the door in a different way each day. Another example could revolve around mealtime conversation. Instead of being haphazard, each member at the table could take a turn sharing something that they learned that day or something they are thankful for. A ritual around mealtime could also involve how you call everyone to the table—you could get creative here instead of the usual hollering and nagging. These are just some of the multitude of ideas that you might think of when taking ordinary routines and turning them into rituals.
Can you think of a routine in your family that you could develop a ritual of connection around? Who would need to participate? How might you discuss your idea with your partner and/or children? How might this strengthen your family? Do you have a current ritual of connection in your family that you’d like to share?