Creating shared meaning by establishing traditions and rituals of connection is not just for couples – you can bring your whole family together in much the same way! Today on The Gottman Relationship Blog, we’d like to share some examples of ways in which you can do this. Of course, these examples are just that. They are a jumping off point to inspire you and your family to create your own rituals and traditions based on your family’s goals, values, and interests!
Rituals symbolize cultural identity and values we share with our families:
Take the Lawrence family for example:
- Perhaps the Lawrence family goes out to breakfast at the Magpie Café every Saturday morning to recap their week and talk about important events in their lives. If the weather is nice, they head out to the park afterwards. By upholding this weekly tradition, the children will know, “We’re the Lawrences – we love the Magpie, and we like to go to the park together!”
- Maybe the Lawrence family invites Grandma and Grandpa to dinner on Saturday nights. The children may say, “We’re the Lawrences, and we love Grandma and Grandpa. It’s really fun hearing their stories about the past.”
- If the Lawrence family goes to the library every week to search for books, the kids may feel, “We are the Lawrences and we love to read. Mom always finds us the funniest books, and if we ask her to, she buys us our favorites on the holidays!”
Without rituals, if the family does not come together in a regular way, both parents and children may miss out on the feeling of being emotionally connected.
Rituals ensure that people take time for emotional connection:
It’s hard to find time for new rituals and routines in the ridiculously busy schedules most of us have to navigate – especially those of us with kids. But that’s okay! Routines can actually save time and allow you to connect with your whole family – anything can be made into a ritual. This may remind some of you of Mary Poppins: “In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun! You find the fun – and snap! The job’s a game!” Here are some examples of simple ways to connect with your family every day, taken again from the Lawrence family:
- Mr. Lawrence makes Mrs. Lawrence coffee every morning. Mrs. Lawrence makes Mr. Lawrence his favorite scrambled eggs and English muffins. They take an extra fifteen minutes to eat together before rushing to the office.
- Mrs. Lawrence has to drive her son Danny to swim team practice every Monday and Wednesday. Because it is a 45-minute drive to the pool, Mrs. Lawrence takes this opportunity twice a week to learn about Danny’s life. How is school going? What was the best part? What was the worst? What’s going on with his band? His friends? On longer drives when there’s traffic, they play word games and make up stories together. Instead of dreading these car trips, both mother and son look forward to their time together.
- Mr. Lawrence works late every night, and sometimes doesn’t get to see his youngest child, Winnie, all day. They miss each other, so he takes her out to the movies every Sunday afternoon – she gets to pick the movie, he gets to pick the place they get ice cream afterwards (to discuss the movie’s relative merit and her elementary school’s social scene). When they want to save money, they rent a movie and watch it together in the living room.
Rituals can help us to process our feelings as we move through life’s transitions, and to stay connected despite our conflicts:
When you have a fight with your partner or your child, do you walk away from each other and stew in separate corners of the house? Remember to Turn Towards each other. Rituals of affection begin a repair process. A hug and a kiss before bed or before leaving each other for work leaves the two of you feeling that your relationship is much more important to you than the issue at hand. Additionally, as your children grow older, having lasting rituals and traditions are essential for maintaining emotional connection and closeness.
We hope that these examples, along with our last post, have helped to give you insight and inspiration to create shared meaning in your family. Talk these ideas over with your partner, and decide how to develop and maintain rituals of connection with your children. Look forward to Friday’s Weekend Homework Assignment in Creating Shared Meaning!