3 Essential Rituals for Parenting in a World that Goes Too Fast
In 2012 there were almost 25 million single parent families in the U.S. 35% of all families.
How is that possible? Even with two parents, parenting is a big task.
One thing we know for certain: rituals are any parents very best friend. In our book Your Hidden Riches we’ve written a lot about rituals and there is nowhere they have more value than for parents.
Rituals provide kids with a sense of safety and security. They create regularity in the day on which kids thrive. Perhaps more than anything they help parents be fully present with their kids at prescribed times so the incessant demands of phones, emails, texts and other distractions can be put aside and you get to focus on one of the things you love more than anything in your life–your children.
In this blogpost, we’ll share three essential rituals for parents–and even if you’re not a parent, we predict you’ll find these invaluable.
Creating Conscious Space for Parenting
As a parent, you have all the requirements and desires, that non-parents do, with a layer of welcomed responsibility on top of it. You still need to earn a living. You still have passions, in addition to your kids. Often you have parents who may need help and support. You have friends you’d like to spend time with. You still would like to enjoy intimate, romantic times with your partner.
Some of these things get transformed when you become a parent. Priorities change. Yet, too many parents today find themselves running so fast trying to keep up with everything, answer emails, text messages, phone calls, that it’s rare when they get time exclusively with their kids.
Rituals give you that.
So here are three rituals that any parent will find invaluable
Ritual #1: The Morning Ritual
There’s a saying, “Well begun is half done.” Begin your day well and the rest of the day is easier. And when you begin your day well with your kids, then you can all have a great day.
No matter how rushed your mornings may be, set aside at least 10 minutes for a morning ritual with your kids. Chris takes his girls for a short, 10 minute walk every day. Sophie his oldest practice her “word of wisdom” which is a walking meditation for young children while Tianna, the 3-year old rides her “Laufrad,” a bike that is pushed along with the child’s feet. They always have a short race at the end (the kids always win), Sophie always walks along the top of the neighbor’s stone fence with Daddy acting as spotter and they always end by playing “potato sack”–a simple game where the kids are thrown over Daddy’s shoulder, then they get “discovered” inside the potato sack. It’s fun, it’s simple and it’s quality time together.
There are many rituals you can do in the morning: play the gratitude game, where parents and kids take turns saying what they’re grateful for; or the intention game, setting your intention for the day; or the appreciation game, taking turns appreciating each person in the family; or create time for praying together; or singing together.
Kids LOVE repetition (even if drives you crazy). It makes them feel safe and secure.
Plus they love having time with Mommy and Daddy without distractions. This is one of the most valuable gifts you can give your children.
Ritual #2: The Meal Ritual
Research has shown that children in families that maintain a regular ritual of eating together for five years or longer have higher standardized test scores, lower incidence of drug or alcohol abuse and lower incidence of mental or emotional problems.
Choose at least one meal per day that the whole family will share. Create a ritual to begin the meal together and another to close this time together. In Chris’ family, the meal always begins with a fun song of gratitude at the end of which the kids ring bells or cymbals. At the end of the meal, the family sits together for 10 minutes. They sing together this short saying from the Upanishads:
Saha nav avatu
Saha nau bunaktu
Saha viryam karavavahai
Tejasvi nav adhitam astu
Aum, shanti, shanti, shanti-hi
Let us be together
Let us eat together
Let us be vital together.
Let us be radiating truth,
Radiating the light of life.
Never shall we denounce anyone,
Never entertain negativity.
Aum, peace, peace, peace.
Then the kids have wall chart they use to recite the alphabet and afterwards, Mommy and Daddy take one letter and outline it with dots, making a number of copies. The kids then race to see who can connect the dots first. Afterwards, they repeat the saying above.
It’s a simple ritual, doesn’t take much time, but during those 10 minutes, the kids have Mommy’s and Daddy’s full attention. They love it.
We’re quite sure you can come up with your own meal rituals. Just remember there is value in creating an opening and a closing ritual for your meal. Some religious traditions prescribe an opening and closing prayer just for this reason.
Ritual #3: The Evening Ritual
Most parents have some kind of bedtime rituals. Our friend Beth not only read a book to her son when he was little, but they would lie together and she’d ask him three questions:
What’s the best thing that happened today?
What was your biggest challenge?
What’s the silliest thing that happened today?
This worked really well for some time. She would celebrate his wins, then empathize with him over the challenges and finally they’d laugh together about the silly times.
Then one day her son asked Beth the same three questions. She had no trouble with the best thing or the biggest challenge. But she was stumped when it came to the silliest thing. She had a big Aha! She realized she wasn’t allowing enough fun, silly experiences into her life.
From that day on, they both shared and Beth got to laugh at her own silly things as well as her son’s.
Whatever your evening bedtime ritual, do your best to make it consistent, to make it something that is settling for your kids, and that leaves going to sleep with a good feeling. For just this reason, Chris loves singing his kids to sleep.
The Power of Ritual
Rituals are powerful tools for all of us, parents or not. They will help you manage your time, your energy and your thinking. Perhaps most valuable of all, they can give you a chance to connect with the parts of your life that are beyond the reach of the senses, and remind you of what really has deepest value for you.
Thanks so much for being part of our world.
Janet Bray Attwood
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