Create Rituals To Connect With Kids As They Grow

By Laura Ferguson

Every day after school from about 2nd grade to 4th grade my older sister and I would get off the bus at our grandparents’ house – just across the street and two houses down from our own – and stay there for two hours until our mom got off work. After having a snack, we’d practice Spell Bowl words, decorate wooden birdhouses with handmade mini housewares or practice our calligraphy. Many days we’d cap off the hours with Great Chefs of America and Great Chefs of the World on the Travel Channel. Each episodes recipes would be rated, which usually meant a thumbs up for the dessert and an “Ew, I’d never eat that!” for most of the rest.

“If routines are about keeping our family from going off the rails, rituals are about infusing those routine days with meaning…connect us with something larger,” writes Jenny Rosenstrach in her new book “How to Celebrate Everything.”

The routine of spending afternoons with our grandparents before we were old enough to stay home alone was just that, routine. The ritual of those hours shaped my life in told and untold ways. I’m a great speller, have an obsession with all things mini and used to pen the calligraphy for certificates for new members our local St. Andrew’s Society. Most miraculously, I love cooking and would probably thumbs up every recipe on Great Chefs if I watched it today.

“Whether they’re big or small, simple or elaborate, daily or yearly, all our rituals serve the same purpose: They bring comfort, connection, and meaning to our days that might otherwise just wind up blurring together,” writes Rosenstrach. “On a daily basis, rituals help me answer the questions that are central to my life as a parent: How do we help our children recognize things that matter? How do we make days feel special? How do we hold on to moments that are so easily lost in the jam-packed calendar, that disappear behind us like a jet trail?”

Making birdhouses and learning calligraphy were my grandparents’ way of infusing meaning, connecting my sister and I with something larger. We could have spent those hours watching cartoons, doing homework or napping. Instead, my grandparents taught us what they knew and showed us the values central to their lives.

Creating rituals within the routine of life is one of the most powerful ways to connect with kids as they grow, and it doesn’t have to be difficult or time-consuming. Consider what you’re already doing and how you might continue it or enhance it. Talk to children and ask them what they look forward to and build on that. If creating new rituals, focus on traditions that emphasize connections and help build relationships among participants.

Laura Ferguson is the Executive Director at Youth Resources of Southwestern Indiana.