A family, like a canoe, must be steered or paddled, or it won’t take you where you want to go. If you get married or have a child without a working plan for your family’s journey, you will inevitably “drift” toward less closeness, less meaning, and less joy over time. You don’t have to be a “dysfunctional” couple to feel more distant as the years go by, or a particularly inept parent to feel that you spend more time disciplining your children than enjoying them. Without an intentional shaping of the kind of families we want, most of us end up hoping the river currents carry us to where we want to go.
Putting in place family rituals like weekly dinners with the family, celebrating special occasions or even telling your children nightly bedtime stories can help shape your family and make your relationships more satisfying! However, we would be lying if we said that these rituals don’t require effort and planning.
Here are 5 simple tips to help make your rituals work for your family:
- Adult agreement: If you and your spouse do not agree on the ritual, it will not work. Take the time to negotiate the needs, values, and goals of family rituals with your adult partner. Otherwise, you alone will be responsible for the ritual’s success.
- Eventual buy-in from the children: Older children in particular may resist changes at first, especially if they diminish their freedom and spontaneity. But a ritual that works well will eventually win the allegiance of the children. If they continue to complain and resist, consider overhauling, substituting, or dropping the ritual.
- Maximum participation: The more family members are involved in planning and carrying out the ritual, the more meaningful it is likely to be.
- Clear expectations: Rituals of all kinds require enough coordination so that people know what to do and when to do it.
- Openness to change: Rituals can be tweaked and changed to suit your family’s transition into different stages. Intentional Families are forever changing while holding onto their important traditions.
With these guiding principles in mind, you are now one step closer to building your Intentional Family with rituals.
This article is taken from the Family Festival Guide by TOUCH Family Services, and is adapted from “The Intentional Family – Simple Rituals to Strengthen Family Ties” written by Dr William J. Doherty.