Before the Turkey, Tree and Nativity

Before we buy the Turkey, trim the Tree and pull out the Nativity, let’s talk about something important: Family Rituals.

Do you have a family ritual that you cherish?

It can be difficult to think of ones on the spot, but it is one of my favorite questions to ask older kids and teens. Why? Because they get this glimmer in their eyes, this grin comes across their face, and it offers a moment to remember good times with people who love them.

Sometimes the “family traditions” or rituals that they think of are funny and might have only happened ONCE, like that time Dad picked them up early from school to go get ice cream on their birthday. Or maybe it was a family member from out of town that took the kids bowling or something random. I used to think a Ritual or Tradition was something that had to happen every single year, over and over, for it to be valid. The truth is, even one memorable moment can be a ritual because we play it over and over again in our minds over time. And that is sacred!

Image: A List of Family Rituals, listed by month.

I came across this simple list of Family Rituals by month and think it is a fun way to get started. This list is NOT about content for your social media feed and to get attention for being “family of the year.” It IS about capturing simple and very important moments together as a family. And, as always, a family comes in so many shapes and sizes, so maybe these are rituals you can try with your friend group, your small group or your family at home.

Why have rituals? Science backs it up.

The American Psychological Association published a 50-year study on the importance of family rituals and traditions, back in 2002. And the research holds up today – the key to family stability in a whirlwind of busy schedules was a rhythm of including traditions in daily family life. Not only making sure everyone grabs breakfast and brushes their teeth, but also traditions of lazy Saturdays and homemade Christmas cookies. The simple traditions were the most beneficial for family belonging and a sense of balance in the stresses and transitions of life for ALL family members, not just the kids. These rituals were key “check-in points” for maintaining family togetherness and community. In contrast, the findings found that families without these naturally-occuring traditions tended to have more stress and key indicators of overwhelming anxiety, such as alcoholism and separation for bouts of time. So rituals and traditions, even the simplest ones out of necessity (packing a lunch together, everyone buckling up in the car) instill stability and community in a family.

According to parenting experts, keeping family rituals or traditions offers a sense of shared activities, a sense of belonging and of identity for kids and adults alike. Children pick up on the energy and excitement of their caregivers, so any moments that we can share something we enjoy is a way to, essentially, share our love and a piece of ourselves with others. This comes naturally for some and not so much for others. For example, my dad would not claim to be an expert in children. However, I always had a great example of love because he always shared his passions with me, whether it be his love of music or history, cars or travel. He just lived it out loud! And these are some easy ways to get rituals going in your own family.

Big Life Journal has great resources for ritual ideas (link below).

Now is the time to list out our Family Rituals

Perhaps you are ready to start something new with your loved ones, or maybe you are overwhelmed and are ready to pare down your holiday traditions to savor the special moments. Either way, this (pre-turkey, tree, nativity and new year’s time) is a GREAT TIME OF YEAR to think about our rituals. What gives meaning to your life? What can you let go of? What or who is most important to share in these rituals?

Make a list and post it where everyone can see; and use pictures for our pre- and early-readers. You certainly already have a few rituals that you do without thinking about them (those daily or weekly ones). Then you might have others that happen on occasion (a special meal or time to see friends), and even others that only happen once a year. Make a list of these, as they are all a part of your family ritual and rhythm! Look at these occasionally as a reminder of the wonderful memories you are making all together. = )

With Thanksgiving, Advent and Christmas on the horizon, NOW is the time to think about the most important rituals to your family. What are the favorites among all of you? And are you looking for Rituals that teach lessons? Here is a good list for some inspiration. There are lots of great ideas out there but the best ones are rituals that make sense for your family and fit into your life quite easily! (No 8-hour Instagram staging for that “simple” bike ride on the nearby trail.) It is amazing how tempting it is to try to set up a life that is social media-worthy and visually pleasing, but it makes no sense in reality. Give yourself some grace (& your family!) and just go with the flow. Your next family ritual might surprise you!

Happy week!


Holiday Luminary Walk

Dec 3- Luminary Walk at Overland Park Arboretum

Join us for an evening of light and wonder on December 3 at 5:40! Pick up tickets at the church Front Desk ($10/person or $20/household); hurry before we run out!

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