Almost 50 years ago, in The Long Loneliness, Dorothy Day, social activist and cofounder of the Catholic Worker movement, lamented that "we have too little ritual in our lives."
New research indicates that including more ritual in our lives can improve the health and well-being of any family.
Family rituals are the customs or traditions we observe in our families. Some rituals are passed on to us from previous generations; other rituals we initiate ourselves.
Based on 50 years of research, the Journal of Family Psychology recently reported that regular observance of family rituals actually increases marital satisfaction, improves children’s health and their grades in school, provides a stronger sense of identity for adolescents, and forges stronger family relationships.
This new study shows that observing the simple ritual of planning, preparing and sharing meals together leads to healthier children and happier families. This ritual activity of spending family meal time together helps everyone to understand each other on a deeper level.
Establishing nighttime rituals was a great benefit for Belinda and me. Helping our younger children get ready for bed, and perhaps reading a story together before the lights went out, always made for a much smoother bedtime. As our children grow older, we find it helpful to set aside time each evening to discuss how the day is going or anything else on their minds.
Holidays and birthdays provide more opportunities for ritual. We decorate the house, share special dinners and gather as family to prepare holiday foods.
For Belinda and me, ritual has added depth and meaning to our lives. Rituals have created happy memories for us and our children to cherish forever. Family rituals have had a huge effect on the overall emotional health of our home, and a positive impact on our marriage and family.