Family rituals and routines - Why they matter
Building blocks for shared happiness – with your kids and your au pair
Think for a minute about your most special childhood memories. If you're like most people, these memories will include many moments from old family rituals or routines that you used to enjoy.
Whether it was a regular Sunday morning breakfast, bedtime storytelling, a family game night or just watching a certain TV show together, common activities that come regularly in everyday family life are a key part of what holds a family together and gives it a special identity.
Kids love routines and rituals and depend on them to feel rooted. Parents need them as a structuring element in the chaos of everyday life. And for the family as a whole, routines and rituals serve as a way of realising a specific vision of what each family is and should become.
What exactly your family does together is not necessarily the point. Taking a scenic "drive to nowhere", making popcorn and watching a movie, or even washing the windows for spring cleaning can all take on a special character when family members come together to take part. Shared activities let family members appreciate each other's special skills and qualities and give everyone a chance to live the family connection.
Activities that only happen once and never again might be nice but they don't take on the same significance as when the family makes an ongoing commitment to pursue certain activities together. With regularity and repetition come familiarity and trust. Memories are formed that last a lifetime.
This can range from major efforts like regular attendance at sporting events or religious services or small things like singing a goodnight lullaby or making a special snack. From week to week and year to year a shared repeated activity becomes the glue that holds a family together.
Adding an au pair to the family mix changes the dynamics of family life and can be an occasion for updating and adjusting family rituals and routines. It makes sense to find a clear role for the au pair wherever possible in existing family routines. And au pairs can be encouraged to develop their own personal rituals with the children to deepen the connection of the new relationship.
Family rituals and routines are established when parents (or sometimes children, or even an au pair) make a decision to incorporate them into daily life. Sometimes this occurs without anyone really noticing or thinking about it. A special Sunday breakfast with pancakes might just happen because everyone enjoys it and wants it to happen. But many rituals need a sponsor (someone in the kitchen who gets up and makes those pancakes, for example) to find traction and really become part of the family's shared experience.
The American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson famously remarked, "The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be." The same can be said about family life. Parents have tons of things to manage in everyday life with the household and jobs and the kids, and sometimes this can all seem sort of overwhelming. But at the same time, parents also have the chance to choose certain activities that will shape the family they wish to have. These are the building blocks that make your family like no other and that let you find your own specific happiness together.
What are the rituals and routines that shape your family experience? And are there any new ones you'd like to add? Each day is a new opportunity!
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