Routines and Rituals Strengthen Families
Family routines and rituals are important to your family’s health and well-being. In an era when time and energy are at a premium for most families, it’s tempting to try to save time by eliminating activities that at first glance seem unnecessary and a waste of time.
Think again. Powerful Organizers of Family Life Psychologist Barbara Fiese, Ph.D., and her colleagues at Syracuse University undertook a research project where they examined family routines and rituals over the past 50 years. Their findings revealed that routines and rituals are powerful organizers of family life and offer stability during times of stress and transition. They were able to link family routines and rituals with marital satisfaction, adolescents’ sense of personal identity, children’s health, academic achievement and stronger family relationships.
Routines typically revolve around getting things done within the family. Once completed, there is little thought about them until the next time. Common family routines include mealtime, bedtime and chores.
Bedtime Routine Pays Off Big Time
Especially with preschoolers, predictable routines result in healthier children whose behavior is better regulated. Children with regular bedtime routines get to sleep sooner and wake up less frequently during the night than those with no routine. Fiese’s research goes on to suggest that regular routines in the household also result in improved overall health for children.
Family Dinners Matter
Sitting down to a meal together at least three times a week has big rewards for families. The Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in the Family Guide to Keeping Youth Mentally Healthy & Drug Free offers the following reasons to support family mealtimes.
Why Are Family Mealtimes Important?
- Children who eat dinner with their families are 20 percent less likely to drink, smoke or use illegal drugs.
- Teens who eat dinner with their families are less likely than other teens to have sex at young ages, get into fights or be suspended from school, and they are at lower risk for suicide.
- Dining together offers a great chance to talk with your children as well as to model good eating habits.
Unlike routines, family rituals are symbolic and convey a sense of “this is who we are” for family. Rituals often are handed down across generations. There is an “emotional imprint” connected to family rituals that people remember and replay to recapture some of the positive experience.
Rituals Provide Invaluable Memories
Familiar family rituals include birthdays, family gatherings like reunions and vacations, “Sunday dinner,” and holiday celebrations. These important events offer continuity and meaning for everyone. Going to Grandma’s house every Sunday for chicken dinner; having your favorite dinner and a cake on your birthday; making special holiday foods; and going to the same place every year for vacation are examples of rituals that become some of the necessary glue that helps hold families together.