The Place of Ritual in a Modern Family

Rituals anchor people. They give us a sense of continuity within a day, a week, a year and between generations. Our brains, which love anything with a beginning, middle and end, need rituals to feel content. But these days it can be a challenge to include meaningful rituals in our children’s lives.

One of the many reasons I love our boys’ school is their understanding of this need for ritual. It’s the end of the school year and last night we had the annual Carol Service. It’s a gorgeous ceremony, with the main focus being the passing of the guard. The graduating 18 and 19 year olds walk with  the not yet year Class One (six and seven-year olds) students through the crowd, along a stretch of carpet and introduce them to their new teacher. 

Each year, the teenagers are formally dressed, and the youngsters are dressed all in white and carry a Christmas lily, which they give to their new teacher. The procession easily takes up half the proceedings – but it’s worth it.

Last night, the Hare and his friends watched out eagerly for children who were the little ones when they were at kindergarten – now joining the school,  and the Owl sat with me anticipating his turn next year. (We left pesky pants Mr Butterfly at home with his Dad.)

This ceremony bonds the students together in a way I have never seen in any other school. The sense that they are all one begins with this ritual and carries meaningfully over into the school culture.

At home, our regular rituals happen around food. They’re the easiest ones to sustain. We all have to be up early so we eat breakfast together informally. The evening meal is more formal with a blessing, either religious or mother-earthy:

Earth who gives us Food to eat,

Sun who makes it ripe and good,

Dear Sun, Dear Earth,

By you we live,

Our loving Thanks to you we give.

And the children are expected to excuse themselves properly at the end of the meal. I read yesterday that children who, as a rule, eat with their families are far less likely to be involved in dodgey behaviours as teenagers. For me, that alone makes it all worth the effort.

(Should you find this article useful, Koha is accepted, $1 is fine. The button is under my blog-roll. :))

About Karyn @ kloppenmum

kloppenmum is me, Karyn Van Der Zwet, mother of three and ex-teacher. I'm part of a revolution in parenting, with the aim to raise mature (not sophisticated) and self-assured children. I also know some stuff about adults. I have also had articles printed in The Journal for The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (Children and Young People) and the US parenting magazine, Pathways to Family Wellness, as well I regularly write for World Moms Blog (named as one of the Forbes 100 most useful blogs for women 2012 &2013). You can follow me on facebook (kloppenmum) pinterest (Karyn at Kloppenmum) and twitter (@kloppenmum). I'm also vaguely on LinkedIn (Karyn Van Der Zwet). Thanks to Joe (Mr Hare) for taking the photo. Cheers, son: xxxx.
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13 Responses to The Place of Ritual in a Modern Family

  1. sgrovesuss says:

    I agree with the importance of meals together, although it often includes me and the kids since my husband’s work commute takes him a long time to get home. Any ritual, whether it is snuggling together, reading at bedtime or praying, can stay etched in our children’s minds as they start their families. Good post!


    • kloppenmum says:

      I know the husband part can be tricky. Mine walks in the door and is pretty well expected to sit down immediately. I guess as the children get older and we can eat later, it won’t be so bad. Thanks for responding.

  2. faemom says:

    I agree that rituals are important to our lives, and I feel like so many people don’t have them. I’m trying (and often failing) to add more rituals into our lives. One day I will.

  3. helpingmums says:

    What a fantastic thing to do at school. I can anticipate that school bullying isn’t a great issue at your school? Very inspiring. Thanks for sharing

    • kloppenmum says:

      Yes, it is a gorgeous thing to do at school. We haven’t encountered any bullying…but I hesitate to say there’s none. And thanks for commenting.

  4. A wise post. Lower risk of eating disorders, as well, with families that eat together.

  5. We battle with the dinner thing, although secretly all i have evr wanted is to sit around the table and eat together- every night. It happens occasionally, much easier over the weekend. My problem is that by the time i get home from work, i am in a rush to get a decent supper into my princess’s tummy early- we then eat much later….. BUT we have story time every night!!! And we do manage breakfast.

  6. kaet says:

    Growing up we always had dinner (evening meal) together, and it made a big difference, I think. It was the time we would all sit together and talk about things, and try out new and old tastes. It’s where I learned that arguing politely can be fine, but it’s the issue you disagree with, not the person.

    DH and I eat together at least one meal every day, usually two, and it’s definitely something we want to make a routine thing for our daughter, once she’s eating food. As orthodox Jews we aren’t lacking in other rituals, either!

    • kloppenmum says:

      Rituals are so good for us, even small ones like eating together and what happens on a Saturday morning. But I think when the dogma of many Christian churches became too much, people threw out the baby with the bath-water. Perhaps, this is why we’ve seen so many alternatives emerging over the past 100 years. What a long legacy of connection you have with your family – I believe being Jewish is passed down via the mother, is that correct?

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