The importance of family rituals

The word spooked me out for the longest time.


I couldn’t help but think of dark colored wooden structures or strange chants. To associate the spooky word with jungle tribes or a people group who had no spoken language. To conjure up blazing fire ceremonies or, maybe not. conjuring might be associated with rituals and that would start the images all over again.

But now, I’m all about rituals.

They’re not spooky at all.

Rituals are a rhythm in life. In my life.

They’d actually be something I’d say are a requirement for life. {if you asked me}

They are celebrated and carved out. They are embellished and smoothed out as time goes on.

The more they are used, the more rooted they become.

The dictionary does it job here and tells us that a ritual is a series of actions or type of behavior regularly and invariably followed by someone.

“Sociologists define rituals as repeated activities that create meaning in a culture.” — Bruce Miller in Your Life in Rhythm

“Rituals have the power to help us achieve our mission in every area of our lives.” Bruce Miller

“Sociologist William Doherty says this about rituals: They can be everyday interactions, or they can be once a year, but they’re repeated.”

Grab a napkin at dinner tonight or a paper plate or a pad and pencil or start a new note on your smartphone. Write down those rituals that you’ve already begun or that one thing you’ve got to do again and again because life was good in that moment.

This William Doherty goes on to say through Miller’s book, “Rituals are crucial for busy modern family members to connect with one another. Without regular times to be together as a family, interacting with conversation, play, or other activities, families drift apart.”

I knew this was true, but folks, it did my heart some good to read it . . .

“In their early years, children are healthier and their behavior is better regulated when there are predictable routines in the family. For instance, children with regular bedtime routines go to sleep sooner and wake up less frequently during the night than those with less regular routines.” Thank you American Psychological Association’s Journal of Family Psychology.

“Commitment to our rituals can provide the glue we need to stick together during the times of stress and the seasons of despair.”

Being honest here, our family operates with intensity. {surprise}

We are hands on from 620 am – 820 pm. {times four}

Emotions and schedules and relationships and projects and victories and losses bring about the intensity.

To keep intensity from becoming insanity, we need rituals.

Here’s a few of our family rituals.

Ben and I go out on dates regularly. Otherwise, I begin to treat him like one of the kids and that diminishes all romance and I forfeit honor, respect, and love towards him.

Thursday night is picnic night for the family. Throw down the picnic blankets. Serve finger foods. Turn on the TV that has been hibernating since Sunday night. Veg.

We ALL have many things to say at dinner. Sharing a high and a low gives everyone the spotlight and lets us know who needs more attention at bedtime and who needs that applause.

Board games are fun. But the ritual comes in after the game is over. The ritual is the victory dance. Whoever wins the game leads the whole tribe in a victory dance. Whatever the victor does, the rest follows suit.

Back to school is no joke. We take it seriously and let each kid know that we are their biggest fans as they enter another year. We literally walk around the premises of each school and silently and loudly pray over the teachers, students, administration, and grounds. Then we eat breakfast.

5/6 of us have fall birthdays. I can almost forget them they happen so quickly. But two rituals for sure. We hang the birthday banner the night before and said birthday person gets to pick the dinner spot. At the very least, these will happen.

If I’ve quoted Miller once, I’ve quoted him a few more times. “With rituals, it’s the repetition that develops the memory and seals the value.”

When our kids are grown, we’ll talk about nerf basketball games and who won Sorry the most and picnic night. They are becoming who we are as a family.

So the only thing that spooks me out about rituals these days is not having any.

Share one of your family rituals with us.

Published May 9, 2016