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Parenting rituals

All Areas > Parenting & Guardianship > Parenting & Guardianship

Author: Roberta Smart, Posted: Monday, 25th June 2018, 09:00

What part does ritual play in your parenting habits? So many of us parent in line with the way we, ourselves were parented, and in exploring family rituals we can learn a lot about the history of belief and superstition within our family line.

What is the point of ritual? Ritual brings a sense of the sacred to everyday activities. The pure act of belief gives power to an otherwise mundane behaviour. Taking a picture on the first day of school, saying ‘I love you’ before you leave the house, giving the children a kiss before you say goodbye; these subtle rituals are performed with a subconscious desire to keep us safe, protect our loved ones and insure against any harm that may befall us.

Religious ritual is easier to spot, of course; church on Sunday, prayers at bedtime or saying grace before a meal are familiar, if less strictly observed than they once were.

Some rituals stem from ancient witchcraft

But what of the more secular rituals? Saying ‘Bless You’ when someone sneezes, making a wish when we blow out the candles on a birthday cake, or crossing our fingers for good luck? These all stem from ancient witchcraft practices and reveal our ancient British history.

We all teach our children to say ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you’, reminding them that this is polite and it is in exploring this most British sense of ‘politeness’ that our most deeply held rituals are revealed. To not raise a glass at the wedding toasts, or refuse to shake hands upon meeting someone for the first time would have serious implications on your acceptability within a social group.

A shared behaviour, centralised within a community group brings the whole group together, and creates a shared value by which they can know and trust each other.

Conversely, those on the autistic spectrum using personal rituals such as ‘stimming’ to self soothe and remain calm in stressful situations, may find themselves challenged, rejected or misunderstood. Yet these may not be fully inclusive but are vital rituals of security to those individuals and are worthy of our acceptance and support.

We embrace rituals more often than we admit

As parents I feel we embrace rituals more often than we would perhaps admit, but look closely at any ‘soothing’ behaviour as you go about your day and I will bet you reveal a ritual which stems back for many years. My personal favourite is the bedtime story – a bonding time of shared joy, fascination, ease and relaxation which blends slowly into evening conversations before becoming simply a ‘tucking in and a kiss goodnight.’

Rather than seeing a loss of ritual in modern Britain, I would say we are seeing a return to more natural rhythms, a deep psychological need for ritualised behaviours and shared rituals as we seek to counteract our ever-growing sense of isolation in this increasingly technical and digital world. Oh, and if you are in any doubt as to the effects of ritual on the digital age, just take a look in the app store – whatever you want to learn, follow or maintain you can be certain that there is an app for that!

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