Kids are naturally ceremonial
One of the great things about being around little humans is seeing the world through their eyes. A stick is a wand that shoots ice cream, a swing is a rocket ship into a parallel universe. They want their water in a dog bowl because suddenly they’ve transmuted into a puppy overnight. The examples, taken directly from the last few days of my life, are endless. The imagination and creativity of kiddos is incredible to behold. Kids are spontaneous but yet they also thrive when they understand what’s happening next, when there is consistency and routine, and they have the predictability of knowing what to expect.
A lot of parenting research points to the need for kids to know the boundaries, which they will bump up against constantly, and that having routines in place can compliment this desire to know where the line. At the same time, childhood is full of wonder and excitement. In my experience kiddos buy-in quickly to the family rituals and routines if they are framed around fun and excitement. In my house this runs the gamut of getting out of the house in the morning (e.g. trying to brush your teeth before a song ends) to how we celebrate birthdays/ big events. Being included in developing rituals can give them agency in a world where they are often told what to do.
Here are a few examples of what we do in my home to celebrate the daily-ness of life and make ordinary moments a bit more extraordinary. These have evolved quite naturally from my kids curiosity and excitement about bringing us together as a family:
- Friday family movie night: in an endeavour to limit screen time, we came up with this agreement that we only watch TV on the weekends, and that we make it special. Family movie night involves blankets, pizza, popcorn, snuggles, and having it on a Friday gives us all something to look forward to as the week goes on. It’s also the night where tempers might run highest, and everyone benefits from some down time after a busy week. If movies aren’t your thing, then I know some families do board games night, make a special meal etc.
- The Kindness Trophy: this is a old soccer trophy of my husband’s that has been repurposed to serve as our family’s way to honour the member who has been the kindest during the week. We award it on Sunday nights, and the presentation is accompanied by a short speech (my twins are 5, so this can be quite hilarious). A new spin: the winner of the kindness trophy gets to choose the Friday night movie – an excellent melding of two ceremonies into one
- Family schedule: every Monday we write up on our communal chalkboard what is coming up this week. We use silly little drawings to depict activities (t-ball, swimming, art night etc) as well as do a bit of meal planning. Having this up for everyone to see allows the kids to know what to expect, including if there is an exciting date with their grandparents or if a babysitter is picking them up from school. Anticipating the upcoming week is the way we start our week. With older kids there can also be some elements of each family member choosing a goal or something to work on, and putting that up somewhere visible for the whole family.
- Mummy / daughter dates: my kids get really excited when I give one of these ceremonies a title – “Mummy/ Daughter Dates” even has it’s own chant. These are moments in time when I am alone with the kids and do something that is a bit different from the norm – as simple as a meal together, a craft playing school or having breakfast for dinner. This becomes special time for us to be together as a small subset of our family unit, and I try as best I can to limit using my phone or other distractions (taking them to a restaurant often goes sideways if there’s a TV, but you can’t win them all!). Even if it’s just giving your time together a container, it gives ordinary days a bit more meaning.