Creating family rituals for predictability

By Michelle Spikes, L.M.S.W.
Staff Therapist

Like many of you, my family is learning to adjust to the uncertainty that comes with our daily routines being disrupted during this time of social distancing. We’ve gone from predictable routines to what can feel like a free for all with little to no predictability or structure. There is less pressure on sticking to bedtimes, regular dinner times and even the usual structured school obligations. At first it even felt like an extended vacation. The day was ours to fill with fun activities and even just an opportunity to rest and catch our breath. As the days turned into weeks, it created a whole new list of challenges. How exactly do you manage working from home while simultaneously homeschooling your kids and become the activity creating extraordinar to keep the ensuing boredom at bay? It’s a lot to balance and can feel overwhelming at times.

The truth is there is comfort in knowing what is going to happen. Our brains do not know how to process uncertainty and the unknown often leads to fear. That fear can hinder our ability to focus, make decisions, be creative or even function. We are then left learning new roles while not operating at our best. As we begin to adjust we realize, as overwhelming as this time can be it has a lot of positives too. Families are able to spend more time together than ever before. As a society we have been given the gift of slowing down and refocusing our energy. I have played more games and spent more quality family time in the past month than possibly I had in the past year. As we figure out our new normal it is a great time to think about what we want to carry over when life becomes packed with work, school and extracurriculars again. We all have values and traditions that we want to pass along to our children. Now is the time to create the family rituals that are the things that only your family does. The things that embrace the values you believe in and deeper the connection you feel towards one another.

Family rituals help to create stronger bonds and reinforce the culture and values we want in our families. They are the unspoken family rules that say we stick together, we value gratitude, hard work and compassion. Rituals help strengthen the connections we have and can create a sense of belonging. They provide predictability calming the fear and quieting the thoughts of uncertainty. So take this time to think about what is really important to you and your family. No matter what your values and priorities are they are a million different ways to pass that along. Below are just a few ideas to get your wheels turning.

Stronger Connections:

Think of the things that only your family knows or understand.
Create a phrase you say when greeting each other or saying goodbye.
A game you play when in the car
A song you sing when washing the dishes.
Change the rules of a game you already play making your own family rules.

Create Predictability:

Think of things that help kids know what to expect.
Find a new passion and start it as a tradition. Every Sunday we play boardgames or take a family hike.
Make Friday night movie night. Who makes the popcorn?
Begin cooking meals together, sharing family recipes and assigning roles.
Create a bedtime ritual of creating a story together, reading a book or a song to say good night.

Whatever you decide to create, the predictability of rituals will help your kids and you know what to expect. It will allow you to shift your focus to what matters, love and family.

Michelle Spikes is a licensed clincial social worker at Child and Family Solutions Center. She works with children, teens and adults. She is currently accepting new referrals and can be contacted at

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