Most of us have had rituals in our lives as we were growing up and we use them with our children.
Did you or your parents say things like good night sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bight or see you later alligator?
I love you, see you in the morning is a simple ritual; a ritual of comfort and connection that reminds children we will be there in the morning.
We have rituals such as putting napkins on our laps; reading a story at bedtime; holding hands; going to the same cottage; familiar foods at Christmas or Thanksgiving; decorating the Christmas tree while you talk about years gone by or a hug when we are leaving our family.
Rituals are different than routines. Rituals draw people together. They connect family and friends; remind us how we are connected over time and honor us by reminding us that we are special, loved, wanted and important. I love you rituals help us to reconnect when we have had a rough time or an emotionally difficult event in our lives.
Rituals are important to all families. They are especially helpful to families who are disconnected or stressed by a loss or for children who are separated from their parents through death or marital separation. Children who are becoming a part of a blended family or who have joined a family through adoption can learn about their new families and connect to their new families by learning the family rituals.
These are two of the goals listed in I Love You Rituals by Becky A. Bailey (pg. 7-14)
I Love You Rituals create loving rituals that hold families together even through the roughest times.
I Love You Rituals strengthen the bond between adults and children that insulates children from drugs, violence and peer pressure, laying the foundation for mental and emotional health.
I Love You Rituals can break this cycle by creating spaces in family life where emotional availability is guaranteed. Within this security, resistance, power struggles, and noncompliance are drastically reduced. If you constantly hear your child saying, “I don’t care” or “You can’t make me,” it is time to break the cycle.
Times when rituals are especially necessary:
Stress has been created in the relationship (Deepening the unmet emotional need and the cycle repeats)
Child has an unmet emotional need (feels unloved and unseen)
The child is demanding attention (negative attention is better than none at all)
The child is defensive (Pouting, whining, a “fresh” attitude, or noncompliance)
All of the reasons above also apply to adults. When you notice these indicators with the adults around you, you could use rituals to soothe and connect with that adult i.e. a hug, a special hello or goodbye). A ritual allows that adult to know that you have noticed that they are having a hard time right then.
Rituals to Consider: (Click on the title to open a description of the ritual) .
Linda McFalls, LCSW, MSW, RSW