There is the chauffeuring of the kids, figuring out meals, household chores, shopping, paying bills, appointments, commitments, and so on. And, let us not forget about the demands of our jobs and/or school. Negotiating with our partner about who does what, when, where, and how may also to add to the compiling feeling of exhaustion and stress.
The juggling act can be overwhelming and increasingly demanding on our time, and, more often than not, leave us feeling spent, too tired for our partners and children. Now, even the good things, things that used to be fun and bring us joy, are starting to feel like a chore. We begin to feel disconnected; conflict ensues.
We know that the solution is to spend more quality time together, to connect regularly. But, how do we find time for connection when we are already feeling like we are trying to catch a runaway train? How do we find the energy and the motivation for creating meaningful interaction?
The answer is rituals.
Everyday rituals, as small as a kiss goodnight or as big as an weekly Game Night, are the not-so-secret glue that holds happy families together. The key ingredients of these rituals are repetition, consistency and meaningfulness. The time - already there, occupied by many of the automatic things we do on a daily basis, time waiting to be reclaimed for a more nurturing and meaningful interaction.
Rituals are intentional and deliberate. They are full of meaning and significance. They stand apart from the quotidian routines by the same name. For example, a quick and mindless peck on the cheek in passing is different than an intentional, mindful and emphasized kiss good-bye that declares love and care in no uncertain terms. Though the difference between the two is impossible to quantify, it is unmistakable in experience.
When rituals become predictable and “count-on-able”, they become a safe haven from the everyday struggles and a “true north” for our children. Rituals allow us to feel close with each other and maintain or deepen connections.
As John Gottman writes in his book The Relationship Cure: A Five Step Guide to Strengthening Your Marriage, Family, and Friendships, “when we make a commitment to participate regularly in some form of ritualized connection, we’re less likely to lose touch with the people who matter the most.”
A lack of time and a packed schedule can make it difficult to plan quality time with loved ones. However, creating an informal ritual out of activities you are already doing together can make finding quality time an easy task. Here are a few common everyday rituals that can promote connections between partners, lovers, and parents and children:
Goodbye and Hello Rituals are great and easy way to steal a moment of quality time with a loved one. They are often short and simple, and may involve a hug, kiss, eye contact, or a phrase with a special meaning. They may also be a bit more elaborate and involve sharing a beverage, taking a walk together after returning home, snacks, giving a blessing, and exchanging short tales from the day.
An easy variation of a “goodbye and hello ritual” can take place while you are driving your children to and from various activities. Invite each child to share a silly/interesting/important thing that happened in their day. This can convey the sentiment of “I care about you and want to hear about your day.”
Bedtime Rituals vary depending on the age of the child and can offer the quiet and the intimacy for the kind of sharing and connecting that is difficult to achieve during the bustle of the day. Bedtime rituals can also become a great foundation for helping your child process their day, manage emotions, and downshift for sleep.
For example, co-creating a bedtime ritual with your preschooler allows both of you to “put the day to bed” together. Get engaged in the present moment with each other while brushing teeth or picking out pajamas. You could lie in bed with them and score the day on a 1 to 10 scale, or name the win, lose and draw from the day. More importantly, a bedtime ritual can allow a child to fall asleep feeling secure that all is right in their relationship with the most important person in their life.
Although sometimes difficult to achieve, Mealtime Rituals are a great casual way to “touch base” and hear about the happenings in your children’s lives. If a daily mealtime is not possible, a family mealtime once a week can also help with staying connected.
Additionally, involving all family members, if and when possible, in preparing the meal enables everyone to be a participant in the ritual. It is helpful to also include a “no phone or electronic devices” rule at the table.
Family Time Rituals can include a Movie Night, Game Night, or an outing to a sport game or performance that provides an opportunity for fun, play, creativity, and spontaneity. Each family member can have a turn in selecting the venue or event. It can be co-created by a parent and child or siblings. You can add an element of surprise by creating a jar of ideas and taking turns picking from the jar.
Similar to the daily rituals for parents and children, daily rituals for couples can also include a Hello/Goodbye, bedtime, or mealtime rituals. However, for couples, a Ritual of Emotional Connection can also ensure that connection and emotional intimacy take place regularly. Whether it be a Date Night or walking the dog together or a lazy weekend morning, a ritual of emotional connection can afford partners time and space to express their feelings as well as hopes for the relationship, or simply enjoy being together.
Additionally, for couples, rituals can help them stay connected despite conflict. For example, a Hello/Goodbye ritual can communicate, “I may be mad at you, but I still value our relationship. I think we can work this out.”
Often not included on our To-Do list is time for ourselves. Making Special Time for Yourself Rituals are little carved out pockets of “me” time to tune-in and take care of yourself. It can be just five minutes to take some deep breaths either in the morning or before bed, an unhurried shower/bath after a long day, exercising, or watching your favorite show.
Tips for Creating Everyday Rituals for Connections