"Favorite Family Rituals"
Every Family Has It's Own Fun and Unusual
Doni Boyd, of Lincoln, Nebraska, created the idea of a half birthday party when her daughter Lindsay was 4 and her son Adam was 8. For the half-hour party, held that June, (both kids were born in January) Doni baked half a cake and served half cups of juice. For fun they sang half songs, (every other word) and played half games (hide but no seek.) Guests gave half presents like puzzles with pieces missing and half dollar bills. "It was totally kid driven, a chance for them to use their humor and a time to be silly together," says Boyd." It also made her kids feel special. "Half birthdays are important, especially when kids are young," says Meg Cox, author of The Book of New Family Traditions: How to Create Great Rituals for Holidays and Everyday. "Celebrating them shows you notice how much they have grown and changed."
Family rituals are more popular than ever. "Parents have become increasingly interested in making rituals a natural part of their family life," says Barbara Biziou, author of The Joy of Family Rituals. New research shows that family rituals are important to the health and well-being of today's families trying to meet the busy demands of juggling work and home and offer stability during times of stress and transition. "Even in busy times, family rituals are a way for a family to come together," says Barbara H. Fiese, Ph.D. a Syracuse University psychologist and lead researcher on the study. "Rituals involve symbolic communication and convey "this is who we are" as a group and provide continuity in meaning across generations." Rituals also help kids feel more secure. "It's an emotional connection, the feeling that they belong to something that's bigger than them. It's a group they can rely on."
Each family can create their own unique set of rituals. "You know it's a ritual if the kids look forward to it and if it doesn't happen they miss it," says Dr. Fiese. "For some it's bagels every Sunday morning or it can be as subtle as using the same basket each year for Halloween candy." "Rituals are the actions that speak louder than words," says Cox. "They'll last the longest if they reflect your family's beliefs and passions. Figure out the purpose of a ritual and you can find creative ways to achieve it that suit your family." Use these ideas to get started.
Have a "yes" day once a month. Since life can be hectic, kids often hear no. Next time when your kids can't do what they'd like to do, whether it's wearing a tutu all day or playing a game at dinner, have them write it down on a slip of paper and put it into a "yes" jar. Then once a month on a Saturday, empty the "yes" jar and construct a perfect day. "They might start off with chocolate donuts for breakfast and then have a pillow fight or go to the zoo," says Cox. "It keep kids from getting grumpy and takes the sting out of no, because it's not forever."
Play movie critic. After you see a movie together as a family ask each person to give their opinion, thumbs up or down. "Each member of the family gets to voice their opinion, and share their feelings," says Barry Zweibel, CEW, CPCC, a certified personal life coach and author of the e-book, Fun Family Rituals » Fun things Families Do...Together. It's also good practice at listening, a valuable life skill. The bonus? Each family member feels validated.
Use a fear box at bedtime. "Sleep is a time for rest and renewal," says Biziou. "A fear box helps kids feel safe, leave worries and concerns behind and wind down after their day." Before bedtime, ask your kids to write down any fears that they may have, i.e. I'm afraid of school, I'm afraid of the dark etc. on a slip of paper and put them into a shoebox. Make it more fun by decorating the box with construction paper, sparkles and stickers. The next morning empty the box out to start the day fresh.
Create a dream book. "Get a spiral bound notebook and write down a dream on each page," says Zweibel, whose website is www.FunFamilyRituals.com. Each night before your kids go to bed, choose something fun for them to dream about, like puppies or ponies or a beautiful rainbow. "It helps them ease into a peaceful and restful sleep."
Savor each season. "This ritual teaches kids about what each season represents," says Biziou. "Celebrate spring by planting seeds in a window box. In the summer tend your garden and have a picnic. Enjoy all the lusciousness the season offers. In the fall to celebrate nature's harvest, bake breads together, press leaves and make a booklet. In the winter, take a quiet, moonlit walk together in the snow as nature rests."
Make going back to school special. "The first day of school can be scary for kids," says Cox. "It you make it special it's easier to deal with." To do this, have a little party with donuts and juice at the bus stop or take a photo on the front steps every year, combine for a collage and frame them. Write messages like "have a great day in first grade," in colored chalk on the sidewalk so kids can see it when they walk to school. All these things say you're important to me. You matter.
Celebrate Sister or Brother Day. "It makes older kids feel important and helps them move into their new role as big brother or sister, says Biziou. "Buy them a small gift like a pin or a bracelet that says 'brother' or 'sister' and then take them out to lunch alone to celebrate." Make it an annual ritual to celebrate Sister or Brother day.
Dedicate a day to books. "Rituals should come out of things you love and your kids love to do," says Cox. "My son, Max, 9, loves to read so we're planning a day to celebrate books. We're going to read in bed as much as we want, watch a movie based on a book and dress up as a character we love. It's going to be really fun."
Host a pet birthday party. "It emphasizes to your kids that your pet is an important part of your family," says Biziou. "It also gives your pet a lot of attention and love." Make it fun by inviting your kid's friends and ask them to bring a present like a bone or a dog sweater. Put on the party hats and serve your pet's favorite food and make silly people food like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
Pass the conversation basket. "Fill it with slips of paper with questions on them like, if you could eat dinner with anyone in history who would it be or if you had three wishes what would you wish for," says Cox. "Make the questions fun to answer and get everyone laughing, joking and thinking."
Light a candle on Thanksgiving. "I pass around a plate of tea lights or put a votive candle on a plate in front of each person," says Biziou. "Everyone, even the littlest kids, (with help) lights one and says what they're thankful for. It's a very simple and meaningful ritual. People really open up and share."
Let your kids play Santa. Charity and good works are important to Elisa Jimenez,
an artist and entrepreneur in New York and she wanted to pass those values down to her 7-year-old daughter, Calliope. So she makes it a tradition before each Christmas for Calliope to go through her toys, decide which ones she no longer wants and donate them to charity for other little children. "I know the toys are going to children who may not have any and that really makes me feel good," says Calliope. Not only does it make room for new toys "I also tell her it shows Santa that she is generous," says Elisa.
Start the New Year right. "Have each member of the family make a vision collage of what they'd like to experience in the New Year," says Biziou. All you need are magazines, poster board, a glue stick and scissors. Cut out images that reflect what each person wants to achieve. For example, if your child wants to be a better baseball player, he can cut out a picture of his favorite player and paste his photo on top. "It helps make everyone aware of what's important and gives kids practice setting and achieving goals too."