The Right Rituals for your Family

It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change. 
~Author unknown, commonly misattributed to Charles Darwin

Rituals offer families a sense of regularity and order while encouraging connection among the family members. It seems holiday rituals are especially important.

But what happens if there has been a change in your family and the traditions and rituals are not what they used to be? It could be that your children are growing up and don’t have time to decorate the tree because they are running out the door to be with their friends. Or a change in a long-time family ritual could be caused by something as painful as a death in the family. Perhaps your family never had any rituals and you’d like to create some.

How can a family renew or design a healthy ritual?

  • Accept change as normal but difficult; any type of change can be felt as a loss and can produce grief and nostalgia for what used to be; allow yourself to mourn the loss or absence of a ritual.
  • Then get into action; perhaps you could call a family meeting to brainstorm ideas – remember brainstorming has no right or wrong answers – make a list of all the suggestions and then find a compromise that all can enjoy. Your new/revised ritual doesn’t have to be elaborate; it can be as simple as going on a family walk after the holiday dinner.
  • If the new ritual you have created does not work out as you had hoped, then try something else next time – flexibility is key.
  • Be positive about and give yourself credit for the new traditions you are establishing, the memories you are creating, and your ability to meet your family’s ever-changing needs.

During the holiday season we may feel pressure to have a “Hallmark” family celebration. But in reality our celebrations can be quite different from that image.  Embrace the idea of updating or changing a family ritual that no longer works and it just may be the beginning of a new family tradition.

by Claire Gawinowicz, Certified Parenting Educator

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