Is Your Family Like a Scene from RV? Try Rituals
This scene from RV vividly describes how the culture and our busy lives can pull our family apart. We watch as the RV rolls down the highway for a great family vacation; which, by the way, the father, Bob Munro, initiated in an effort to meet his own employment needs. His wife rides in the passenger seat, listening to her IPod and singing along to her music. His son sits behind the passenger seat with headphones on, flexing his biceps, and “singing” along with his favorite rap. Directly across from him and behind the driver’s seat, sits his daughter. She also has her headphones securely in place and is screaming along with her favorite tune. A family of four starting their vacation, confined in an RV for an extended drive…yet living in four different worlds. They have no interaction, no talking, no connection. Everyone is together in one place, yet all alone. You know what the Munro family needs? They need a good set of family rituals, like eating together, spending time together at the end of the day, a weekly family game night, or a date night.
Rituals are like the glue that can hold families together. Practicing rituals on a regular basis builds and strengthens family relationships. Rituals provide a regular opportunity for family members to connect with one another. The whole family is encouraged to cooperate and think about the other person. Everyone participates, creating an opportunity to enjoy time together, have fun, and experience a meaningful time of connection.
Rituals also help to build family identity. If you have a family ritual that involves a family game night, your family takes on the identity of “game-lovers,” “fun-lovers,” or “competitors.” If your family enjoys volunteering as a family ritual, you take on the identity of “helpers,” “volunteers,” or “caregivers.” Families that practice a ritual of participating in Sunday Worship become known as “church-goers” or “Christians.” Those that connect over sporting activities become the “athletes;” those who camp become known as the “campers.” The list goes on. The rituals we engage in help us build a family identity in which the whole family can take pride.
Rituals help build predictability into the family as well. A ritual occurs on a regular basis. Knowing that our family “has pizza every Friday night” builds predictability and anticipation into the weekly schedule. That predictability brings security to our children. They like to know that “our family always does that.” And, secure children are better behaved children. The anticipation of a regularly occurring ritual encourages good behavior. In addition, family members can arrange their schedule around regularly scheduled rituals, ensuring time for connection building and family fun.
Finally, rituals provide an opportunity to instill family values into the family. We celebrate shared meaning in our rituals. Celebrating birthdays communicates the value we place on individual family members. Celebrating Christmas and Easter becomes an opportunity to communicate the joys of giving, the love of God, and the humble sacrifice of Christ. The ritual of a game night communicates the importance of fun. Families that connect over rituals of sports teach sportsmanship, discipline, and graciousness in winning and losing. Rituals instill family values.
Yes, the Munro family really needed practice a few family rituals before getting into that RV. Maybe your family does too. If so, start today with the simple ritual of giving a hug and kiss good-bye when you leave the house and another hug and kiss when you return. It may sound silly, but practicing the rituals of connection pays will bring added joy to your life!