25 family rituals that foster connection
Emotionally healthy, connected families don’t just happen. That’s why the first step on the Mindful Parenting Pathway – the first step towards becoming a more mindful parent – is intentionality. Because creating a positive family culture takes dedication and commitment. It takes intentional action. And that means deciding what’s truly important to us and choosing to live a life that reflects that. It’s about creating meaning by living out our values each and every day in the things we repeatedly do. Which is why family rituals are so important.
Family rituals can help us create shared meaning within a family. They allow us to establish a positive family culture and a family identity that is based around our beliefs and values. And when they are done effectively, they help us live out those values together. They create a sense of belonging and unity within a family by creating opportunities for emotional connection, shared experiences, and enjoyment and delight in each other.
What are family rituals?
Rituals are mindful, intentional actions that are often tied to core values. They also tend to exist within routines. So they can bring a sense of ceremony, and provide meaning to the things we repeatedly do, while helping us navigate or make sense of significant events and important transitions in our lives. They are also an amazing way to deepen our connections and relationships with others.
Rituals occur within families daily, weekly, monthly, and even annually or seasonally. And they don’t need to be complicated or expensive to be effective. In fact, sometimes the simplest and least expensive traditions create the most lasting impact.
Why are family rituals important?
Family rituals are an important part of creating a positive family culture and a strong family identity. They do it by bringing families together and helping them build secure bonds built on shared experiences and common interests. When we intentionally carve out time to complete rituals together, we send a clear message about the importance of time spent together. This time helps children feel that they are valued, important and loved. And it creates a sense of belonging that is vital for their identity formation.
Other important benefits of family rituals include:
They ease difficult transitions: Rituals provide a sense of comfort or control during emotionally challenging or stressful moments. They help during smaller, every day moments like bedtime or school drop offs. But they also help with bigger transitions like starting a new school year, moving house, or saying goodbye to a family member.
They support emotional regulation: Rituals bring family members closer together and provide children with a way to manage big emotions during stressful times. And connected brains = regulated brains.
They teach values: Rituals are a fantastic way for children to not only learn about our values as a family, but to live them through experience. Rituals help us bring values to life and to apply them to the every day.
They provide a sense of safety: Rituals provide consistency and stability to a child’s life. They are reliable, predictable anchors that a child can rely on. And human brains LOVE consistency – it helps them feel safe and secure.
They provide meaning: Rituals also provide a way to acknowledge the significance of certain events in our lives, bringing meaning to different stages, seasons or celebrations within our family life.
How to establish family rituals
Not sure where to start when it comes to establishing and implementing your own family rituals? Consider the following questions:
1. What are your core values?
What’s important to you? What are your priorities as a family? What values do you want to impart on your children? Family rituals are most effective when they reflect our core values and beliefs.
2. What rituals were important to you as a child?
Do you have rituals from your on childhood that you would like to pass on to your kids? Which rituals helped you feel safe and secure as a child? What did you enjoy doing with your family? Think about ways you can recreate your favourite childhood rituals – if they are meaningful to you, you’re more likely to stick to them!
3. What do you enjoy doing as a family?
Do you have shared interests as a family? Things you already enjoy doing together? What kind of experiences would you like to do more of together? Think about ways to create rituals around things you already enjoy or would like to experience together.
Family ritual ideas that foster connection
1. Bedtime story: Creating rituals around things you already do every day is a good way to ensure they actually happen. Bedtime can be a tricky transition for many kids, so why not use this time as an opportunity to reconnect after a long day? It means your little one will drift off to sleep with their emotional tank (and their heart) full.
2. Secret handshake: Invent a secret, super fun handshake with your child and use it whenever you have to separate (or when you reunite). If you have more than one child, you can create a unique handshake for each of them. They will love having something special that is just for the two of you!
3. Family dinner: One of the biggest protective factors when it comes to the development of mental health problems, is eating meals together as a family. Family dinners provide an opportunity to reconnect after a long day apart, to share and reflect upon the day and can help to create healthy eating habits for the whole family too!
4. Evening walk: Get your daily dose of exercise with a family walk before or after dinner each evening. This is a great way to simply enjoy each others’ company. You could make it even more meaningful by naming things you are grateful for as you stroll.
5. 8 second hug: Hugs are proven stress relievers, and they have obvious powers of connection too! In our house, we have a rule that each person needs to get 8 x 8 second hugs per day. Give it a try yourself!
6. Highs and lows: This activity involves sharing one thing that went well, and one that didn’t go so well, or that you struggled with during your day. This is a great dinner time activity that just about everyone in the family can participate in. And, it offers an opportunity to deepen connections – through sharing your own feelings and experiences, and celebrating or supporting others through theirs.
7. Morning Snuggles: Start your day with a 5 minute snuggle in bed with your kiddos. This is a great way to start the day on the right foot and ensure everyone feels loved up before they go their separate ways!
8. Lunchbox notes: Lunchbox notes are a great little ritual that help kids feel loved and adored by you, even when you’re apart. Your kids will love opening up their lunch box each day to a sweet expression of love, and they are particularly useful if your little one has anxiety or is struggling to be apart from you during the day. Need some inspiration? Check out out Mindful Little Lunch Notes here.
9. Family Cuddle: Yell “It’s _______ family cuddle time!” Wherever everyone is in the house, they need to come together for a big family squeeze. This is a great way to reset after you’ve had a difficult moment/few hours/day, or after you’ve been separated for a an extended period due to work or school.
10. Special Greetings/Farewells: Special farewells could be as simple as a hug and a kiss. Or it could involve a special hand squeeze, a sweet saying like “See you later Alligator!”, or some words of endearment. Make it fun, make it meaningful and repeat it often.
11. Movie Night: Grab some blankets, order your favourite food snuggle up on the couch for an evening of movies together. Movie night is a great way to end the week and transition into the weekend!
12. Family Game Night: Grab your favourite snacks and a stack of board or card games and PLAY! Games can help kids with important social skills, like cooperation, sharing, self control and turn taking. Playing games as a family can really help kids learn how to co-operate, communicate, and collaborate with each other – especially if you play in teams!
13. Saturday/Sunday Breakfast: Be intentional about gathering together on the weekend over a slow breakfast. Enjoy pancakes, waffles, bacon and eggs or bagels – it doesn’t really matter! What you eat isn’t as important as the time you spend together anyway. Your children will treasure this time spent as a family, especially if the rest of the weekend is full of sports and extra curricular activities that take everyone in different directions.
14. Weekly themed meals: Give Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday, Friday Pizza or a regular Sunday Roast a try! Regular themed meals are a fun way to break up a week, provide consistency and structure and give kids something to look forward to!
15. Family Meeting: Grab some snacks and take time out as a family to discuss what’s working well and what’s not working so well. Family meetings are a great way to ensure everyone in the family feels heard and understood and has an opportunity to contribute to important decisions. For more information on ensuring your family meeting runs smoothly, see this blog post.
16. Family Adventure Day: Set aside a special day each month to go on a family adventure together! Make it something big that you’ve always wanted to do together, or keep it simple with a picnic at the park. But whatever it is, make it sacred. Schedule it into the calendar and make space for it each month. Knowing that you’re setting aside time from your schedule just for this special day will make it so much more meaningful.
17. Mum or dad date night: Give your kids a turn of having a special date with mum or dad (or even both of you) each month. This is time that is just for them, and what you do is entirely their choice! As a result, your child will be left feeling super special and oh so treasured!
18. Living Room Campout: Grab some blankets and pillows, build a fort, get your sleeping bags, or drag your mattresses out to the living room. It’s time for a camp out! Watch movies, eat snacks, make shadow puppets with torches and let everyone fall asleep together wherever they land.
19. Yes Day: Spend a whole day saying YES to your kids! Pizza for breakfast? Absolutely! A day spent in your pyjamas? Why not! A trip to the museum? Definitely on the agenda. This is a great way to let loose and have fun as a family. The kids will love being in charge (within reason of course!) and will look forward to this day with anticipation all year long.
20. Summer Camping Trip: Create amazing family memories for your kids with an annual camping trip in the summer. Pitch a tent, swim in a lake, and gather around the campfire, singing songs and roasting marshmallows. But most importantly, enjoy each others’ company and create happy childhood memories your children can look back on with fondness.
21. Winter Snow Trip: If you live somewhere cold (or you can get to a snowy holiday destination) then a winter snow trip is another super fun opportunity for connection. Build snowmen together, enjoy snow sports like skiing, snowboarding, and sledding, have snowball fights and laugh together.
22. Gratitude Jar: This is a great tradition that helps with the transition to the new year. Each time you feel especially grateful for something throughout the year, write it down on a piece of paper and pop it into your family gratitude jar. Then at the end of the year, spend some time reading and reflecting on all the wonderful things you felt grateful for during the year.
23. Birthday Boy/Girl Rule: Every year on your child’s birthday, enforce the Birthday Boy or Girl rule. This rule is your child’s chance to be treated like royalty. They get to choose the meals for the day, get final say in the activities that happen, are exempt from chores, and can ask their siblings to do things for them (and siblings need to oblige!). But the rule MUST end at bedtime on the day of their birthday, AND their siblings will get a chance to be the birthday boy or girl too, so they’ll need to make some wise decisions! 😉
24. End of school swim: Celebrate the end of the school year and the beginning of summer with “school’s out” dip! Just head to your nearest pool, ocean, or lake after school and jump in! Take a pic each year to see how the kids grow, and if you’re feeling brave, let them jump in wearing their uniform or school clothes. They’ll love it!
25. Birthday Love Bomb: Every year on your child’s birthday, make it a tradition to bombard them with love! Simply ask all the members of your family take turns saying one thing they love about your child until everyone runs out of ideas! Your child will feel super loved up and so very special.
This list is definitely not exhaustive, and some of these ideas may not work for your family. And that’s ok! After all, these ideas are just a starting point to inspire you to create your own rituals and traditions. Rituals and traditions that reflect your family’s unique set of values and beliefs. So if you need more help setting up rituals, routines and rhythms for your family that help to ease stress and strengthen connections, then get yourself onto the wait list for The Mindful Little Mama! The 3 R’s are such an important part of creating a positive family culture that we have a whole section of The Mindful parenting Pathway dedicated to them.