Simple Family Rituals

DiAnna Ritola
3 min readApr 12, 2022

Lighting a candle. Singing a song at bathtime or at breakfast. Offering a simple “thank you” before dinner. Honoring loved ones who have died by sharing photos and stories.

Photo credit: Patrick Chu

Our lives are filled with opportunities for making meaningful connections between events and emotions. At heart, rituals are using those opportunities with intention. You probably have more rituals in your life than you imagine. Singing “Happy Birthday” and blowing out candles on a cake are symbolic reminders of the well-wishing and celebration of the joy a baby brings into the world. Human brains want to make meaning and connection between the physical world and our mental, emotional, and spiritual selves. This is where ritual comes in.

Ritual is not necessarily connected to any particular religion or faith practice, yet all religions have rituals that are used within celebrations and worship activities. You can be part of a faith path and still design your own family rituals that complement your beliefs. You can also create meaningful rituals that don’t have anything to do with any organized religious tradition but honor and elevate the beautiful daily activities of your family as part of the natural world and the love you share with each other.

All that “theory” is well and good, but what does it look like when you’re knee deep in dinner prep, every kid is hangry, and you need two more sets of hands to do everything? This is where having a simple prepared ritual can help.

Here’s a common example: Many pre-school classrooms have a “clean up song” that helps children to recognize the transition from playing to doing another activity. This song is usually simple (10–15 words), has an easy tune, and repeats so that children can jump in to the song at any point as adults sing it over and over. Everyone picks up toys and other out-of-place items and puts them on shelves and in bins or another appropriate location. When all is done, the song ends, and there is space in both the physical and mental environments for moving on to another activity.

Some suggestions for other types of rituals that work with young kids:

1. A good morning song that helps grumpy kids move through the morning bed/breakfast/washing/toothbrushing activities. This can be one you already know or one you make up. If you don’t like the sound of your singing voice, that’s ok. Your kids LOVE the sound of your voice because it is yours, or you can choose a recorded song to play and sing along with that.

2. Holding hands before a meal and each person stating a good thing that happened that day.

3. Hugging a tree and saying “Thank you” for the air we breathe.

4. Doing a silly dance or just shaking arms, legs, head, etc. to “get the angries out” before trying to talk about what is causing the anger.

5. Bedtime snuggles that include 3 gratitude observances: “I am grateful for our house,” “I am grateful for our dog, Jimbo,” “I am grateful that I got to see grandma today,” and others help to end the day remembering our blessings and creates resilience for difficult times.

The way we bring awareness of our internal experience into the physical world can help both ourselves and our children when the outside world feels harsh and unfriendly. These practices can also help us talk about that harshness because we have helped to cultivate a safe and trusting relationship with our kiddos. At the heart of relationship is trust. The small things we do every day to honor ourselves, our children, and our place in the wider scheme of things teach our children that they can trust us, and they can trust themselves, too.

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DiAnna Ritola

Life Coach. Writer. Clergy. Lesbian. Fascinated with the messiness of humans. Celebrating kindness and adventure. www.diannaritola.com