My post about the role religion plays in our family life sparked one of the best comment-section conversations I’ve ever seen. People from all over the religious/spiritual spectrum shared their practices and why they think they’re important.
Since then, I’ve come across two more fascinating takes on religious- and non-religious parenting: KJ Dell’Antonia’s NYT Motherload post “Children, Choosing Their Religion” and Katherine Ozment’s “Losing Our Religion,” the Boston Magazine piece that kicked off KJ’s post. KJ said something several of you said in the comments: that kids don’t necessarily need religion to have a sense of connection and belonging.
What matters is to find and strengthen those things that are important to your family rather than regretting those things that have worked for other families in other times.
Religion or no, in the comments, many of you said you consider ritual and tradition to be an important (and treasured) part of family life. The word ritual has such a serious ring to it, but rituals can also be simple, comforting and fun. In another recent post about easy holiday rituals, I said this:
It’s worth asking yourself what makes rituals meaningful for your kids. For mine, it’s two things: specialness (the ritual only happens on certain occasions) and repetition (the ritual happens every time). For them, the joy is in the anticipation of the ritual, and the familiarity once it’s underway. I also think that rituals foster a feeling of belonging; “this is something my family does every year.”
Now that we’re past the distraction of the holidays, it’s easier to think about ritual in its less-loaded, everyday form: the little things you can do each day, each week, or each season to insert a pause for reflection or appreciation. Rituals need not be time-consuming (or all that serious) to be special. As long as they’re predictable and important to your family, they will be meaningful.
Here are eight ideas to consider. See if one resonates for you.
Light a candle 1 of 8Lighting candles at mealtime naturally quiets things down and encourages reflection. (Unless your kids are toddlers or pyromaniacs, of course.) Photo credit: Brendan DeBrincat
Give thanks 2 of 8Expressing gratitude before you eat -- such a simple way to pause. No need to include religion if that's not your thing. Photo credit: Ali Edwards
Friday night dessert 3 of 8We make Friday nights special by serving a treat. It encourages our kids to invite friends over instead of making plans, and it takes dessert out of the "daily" realm and into the "special." Photo credit: Benny Mazur
Change of venue 4 of 8Dinner in the living room. Sleepover in the basement. "Predictable variety" is exciting. Photo credit: Danny Sullivan
Weekly family fun night 5 of 8Movie night, game night, quiet reading night...whatever you enjoy. Photo credit: Morgan
Scheduled phone calls 6 of 8Regular calls to the grandparents or far-flung friends maintains connections and adds rhythm to the week. Photo credit: Julie Corsi
Coming of age rituals 7 of 8Monthly growth chart recordings, weekly allowance...these small actions let a kid know she's growing up. Photo credit: Etsy/HouseHoldWords
10-minute bedside chat 8 of 8Even my teen still loves this nightly ritual. Many observations of the day come out at this time. Photo credit: Clarkston STAMP
Does your family have a favorite everyday ritual?
Asha Dornfest is the co-author of Minimalist Parenting: Enjoy Modern Family Life More By Doing Less and publisher of Parent Hacks, a site crammed with tips for making family life easier.