What's a ritual? It's a routine with meaning. Children love ritual. Rituals hold families together.
Routines and little rituals can also have a positive affect on how your child sleeps. Many parents describe them as “sleep associations”. Little rituals that our children come to associate with bed-time. That routine bath before bed, baby massage, reading stories with the night-light on – all rituals which have helped parents wind down their children and ultimately helping to settle them to sleep.
Making these rituals can have a positive long-term affect on your child. More often it is the little daily rituals that they so see so fondly. Simple everyday things that give them comfort and security. Rituals that they may carry with them in to their own adult life and in to their own families some day.
It could be something as simple as a special song you sing in the morning time while you all brush your teeth. It will be something that excites your child. It might even make them more likely to want to brush their teeth – a battle that many parent's find themselves fighting. It is simple in theory but from your child's perspective it is such a funny and joyful experience. The mere mention of tooth brushing will have them singing that song in their heads. Eagerly anticipating something that they associate with fun. A special moment between them and their parents.
Other rituals could be in the form of special dinner times. I so fondly remember Friday night being take away night in our house when we got a big older (and take away was not just for adults when the kids had gone to bed). The idea of the boxes arriving by delivery, watching my mum disperse it all between the plates and being asked “what would you like?”. It felt completely exhilarating. I loved that my mother had not cooked that day. More time for play-time with me and less time cleaning up in the kitchen after. Take away night always felt relaxed and the sense of novelty was very exciting.
Keeping it simple is often the key. The last thing us parents need is another reason to feel stressed. Another event to plan and put together. My partner cycles home from work. It is usually around the time that I am serving up dinner. My son will actually hear the squeaky back gate and he knows it's “dada”. We've recently fell in to a routine whereby (when it's not raining) I open the back door and let him run around to the side gate to meet his Daddy. He then takes his helmet back in to the houser and watches his Daddy put the bike in the shed. He will excitedly shout things like “shed” “bike” “gate” and it has become a ritual that he gets a lot of fun out of. This is something that has just happened naturally and it's so lovely to see just how much happiness this little daily ritual brings our son.
Our children are constantly experiencing some kind of developmental change. These changes are both emotional and physical. They can make the world feel like a frustrating and scary place. Creating daily rituals really cements the idea of the familiar for our children. When routines are a bit awry and when stress is in the air they may look forward and cling on to the thing that they know will happen at certain times.
Thursday is the day that I don't work. The morning routine is a bit different. Less rushed and I can take my time getting myself and my son dressed for the day. This morning I asked him “where are we going today?” and he answered “playgroup”. I couldn't believe it. It amazes me that a certain sequence of events and a change in our rituals made him know to expect the things we do on a Thursday. That kind of security is something that money cannot buy.
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