Family rituals can make all the difference when family life gets tough. You may think you don't have time for rituals. Some days you barely have time for the essentials, which is why it's important to keep things simple.
Here is a list of rituals that you should implement in your everyday life to enrich family time:
Family dinner used to happen every night, in every family. That was before the days of working moms, a twenty-four hour society (and the constantly changing shift work that comes with it), and the crazy schedule of extra-curricular activities many kids are involved in these days.
Family dinner has an impact though, so it's worth preserving. According to this Washington Post article, simply eating dinner with your family is the most important thing you can do with your kids. It doesn't have to happen every night, and it doesn't have to be elaborate or even home cooked. Take-out pizza on a Friday night is still family dinner, as long as you all gather around the table to eat it together and enjoy some conversation and bonding.
Family game night
One night a week, or month, devoted to playing games as a family can be a ritual you all will enjoy. They don't have to be board games. You can play cards or do something physical like playing Twister or Charades. You can even make a family game night about video games. Anything goes, as long as everyone's involved.
Family movie night
Many families spend way too much time in front of the TV, without necessarily watching anything worthwhile. Instead, try setting aside a regular night where you all watch a movie together. Take turns picking out the movie. Make popcorn. Snuggle under an old quilt. Do whatever it takes to make it feel like a ritual rather than an ordinary night in.
A driving ritual
As kids get older we spend a lot of time driving them around. So develop a driving ritual. It could be a game you play, or a favorite soundtrack you always listen to (and sing along to) in the car. As a parent, you can have a different, and highly personalized, driving ritual for each child, especially if you regularly drive them to an activity where it's just the two of you.
A change of season ritual
Everyone can find time for a change of season ritual. It only happens once every three months, after all. Again, it doesn't have to be anything elaborate. It could be a family trip to the lake on the first day of summer, or collecting and preserving the most dramatically colored fall leaves in your backyard each year.
An achievement ritual
Many families have a favorite restaurant they go to when they have something to celebrate. Put a twist on it by incorporating a few things you always do to celebrate an achievement. A small gift or a printable certificate for younger kids works. As they get older it might be something as simple as the child who's achieved something gets to ride in the front seat of the car.
Be careful with this one. Some kids achieve more than others, or they achieve more of what society sees as important. But all kids hit milestones or shine in at least one or two areas. Done right, an achievement ritual can be a way to show the less academic or sporty kids in your family that you recognize and value their achievements too.
A holiday ritual
Every holiday should have a ritual, and most have quite a few, but they're very generic: trimming the Christmas tree, making the Valentine's cards, carving the jack-o'-lantern. Try and develop at least one ritual for each holiday that is unique to your family, or just take one of the common holiday rituals and do it in your own way.
A bedtime ritual
Bedtime happens every night and it's a great time to implement a simple ritual you do together as a family, or that you do with each child. Many parents will read a story or say a prayer with their child before bed, but it could just as easily be a fist bump and saying a "love ya." That's a ritual that might even last through the teenage years.
A daily ritual
Technically, this could be your bedtime ritual, but sometimes it's inspiring to make the mundane or necessary parts of life sacred and enjoyable. Can you think of one thing you have to do every day that you can make into a daily ritual with your kids? It could be walking the dog with your teen after dinner, strolling to the mailbox hand-in-hand with your preschooler every morning, or sorting laundry with your toddler after nap time. Make the mundane everyday stuff into lovely little rituals you look forward to.
A self-care ritual
Teaching your children self-care is a wonderful gift. Whether it's a pampering evening with your daughters, a short relaxation and meditation session with your teens, or a weekly trip to the farmer's market to pick out healthy food, showing your kids that it's fun to take a little time out to look after yourself is a great ritual.
No matter how strapped for time we are, we can all find a few family rituals that don't take up too much time, but help all family members connect and communicate.