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Weekly rituals that keep the family connected

Jen Klein is a New England-based technical writer and mother of three. When she isn't asking her kids to stop bickering, "caramelizing" the dinner or actively ignoring the dust bunnies under the couch, she enjoys knitting, gardening, pho...

Day-to-day traditions

While the early childhood years are often taken over with the need just to get through the day -- and what long, long days they are! -- as kids get older and lives get busier, we tend to look for more and different ways to maintain the family sense of connection. Routine and ritual become tradition in themselves as we look for regular and frequent ways to focus on family togetherness and connection. If that regular ritual has been lost for your family, you can create it anew. Start by creating new weekly rituals.

family-meal-at-dinner-table

The family routine -- the commonalities of our day -- bring comfort to our increasingly busy lives. We use routine to help kids know what to expect, and those rituals help us as adults get through the day as well. They are, in a sense, traditions -- but without the major holiday or event associations. Our lives are so full that we have to look to the little ways -- the little traditions -- to maintain the family core.

Fortunately, our lives and the lives of our children are full of big and little moments prime for creating such ritual and staying connected. We've just got to grab them! We may not know which way we're coming and going in the carpool lane, but you we can know that Tuesday night is a family meal night!.

1Look back at the calendar

Start by looking at the last several months of the family calendar. Try to identify two or three blocks of time when the family is consistently together. Perhaps Monday has the fewest soccer games and Thursday is almost always free. What about Sunday morning? Or even Wednesday morning?

2Commit and prioritize

Now commit to blocking out two to three of those periods of time going forward as definitive, can't be missed family time. Get buy-in from your spouse, talk to your kids about this commitment to a new family ritual -- and do not schedule anything else for this time for the next three months. Tell the soccer coach you can't make that practice. Prioritize the family!

3Meals beyond dinner

An obvious choice for creating weekly family ritual is a family dinner. That's all good and well -- and strongly encouraged! -- but it's not the only meal option. Depending on your schedule, you can have a family dinner, yes, but what about a mid-week breakfast when everyone eats together? Or a Saturday lunch? Or Sunday brunch? As long as it's something you commit to, it works.

4Outings and activities

Now find other moments in the week for gathering and experiencing something together. Try a Thursday family movie night complete with popcorn (great impetus to get the homework done early), or Sunday afternoon family bike ride. Even a weekly common area cleanup can be family fun time if you turn on the dance music and lip sync your way through straightening the house. Look beyond the usual to the unusual. These are your new traditions you are trying to create, and they can be anything you want them to be.

5Make the most of religious observance

Many families count weekly church or temple attendance as part of family activity, but even that can be taken a step further. If church means the kids are in Sunday School while Mom and Dad are in the big church, create a new tradition of a family walk together after church to talk about what each of you has taken away from the experience that day.

Family traditions are more than holiday and occasion-related observances. They are what we do, day to day, to maintain a sense of the family unit. Traditions and rituals, whether meals together or other shared activities, give our kids a common language of comfort and security. With a commitment to just a couple traditions a week, you can create a stronger sense of family, even when you lives are very, very busy.

More about family connections


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