Family Rituals Build Families

Family Rituals

By Julianne Morrison

With the holiday season approaching, quality family time is on my mind. As part of my check-ins with clients during this time of year, I really like to review how we choose to celebrate during special times, and more everyday occasions. I tend to joke about what my children will talk to their therapist someday, and while we can never predict everything that will make their lists, you may rest assured that the events, people, and celebrations in our lives which make regular appearances, will be remembered!

Here are some of the holiday rituals that my family of origin practice:

Easter season brought the typical Easter Egg hunts when the kids were little, but here is a creative twist that keeps everyone interested….My mom started an Easter Egg Scavenger Hunt some years back. Each party guest is assigned a color of the refillable plastic eggs, and gets a list of clues…these might be “grandma is watching,” to refer to an egg hidden behind a familiar photo. The eggs can be customized with favorite candy, money, or affirmations—you know who gets what color! We are a bit competitive, so there is also a bunny trophy for the guest who finds all their eggs first!

OK, they aren’t all sentimental fun…who among us has not feasted on a heart shaped meatloaf for Valentine’s Day…or maybe it is just me L

Each of my siblings and I got a shopping day with my mom, during December. We would buy presents for the family “from us,” and have a special lunch out, just the two of us! It made me feel special to know that she had that time to spend with each of us, and there was an emphasis on our own choices. There were many lean years when we couldn’t afford much, but I will always cherish the time together.

Seafood every Christmas Eve, like my dad remembered while growing up in Germany. Family was central to our holiday celebrations, and I know that he missed his family so far away—we continue this one still, it reminds us of my dad and our loved ones overseas.
Each of us likely practice similarly cherished everyday rituals: bedtime stories, Sunday morning pancakes, report card day ice cream, birthday dinners (at my house, it’s whatever they want…eggrolls and pizza, anyone?), raking leaves together, Friday movie nights, snowman building, group manicures, or a favorite must-watch TV show. Taking these events from the mundane, to the ritual level, elevates and reinforces the habits that strengthen bonds, let our families know that we will sacrifice for them, and that belonging to our family has meaning. It’s also a nice practical application of the “ratio idea” of positives-to-negatives….what if we made sure that for every chore, we had a couple of everyday rituals for balance?

Sadly, when our relationships are in a rut or not perceived as fulfilling, the holidays, and every-days, can bring a microscope to the problem issues. I like to reframe these occasions as an opportunity to evaluate “What is right with relationships and rituals?”, “What are the deal-breakers?”, and “How can we prepare to firm up our boundaries?”, so that the good memories outweigh the bad, … a topic I’ll address next month. Cherish the old!, and never forget, our actions today shape the future for our families, ….every day is a new opportunity to let the people in your life know that you care, by practicing and initiating rituals.

Julianne is a psychotherapist practicing at KMC, who enjoys working with clients to heal, and to maximize past, current, and future relationships.

Blog Excerpt:

When is it time to bare your teeth?
There are other predators out there though, some internal and some external who will tell you that you are not good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, who make fun of your gifts and your desires, tell you that you make bad decisions and shouldn’t trust yourself. When this happens, it is time to bare your teeth, growl and demand that they back off!

Clinic News: We are sad to announce that Bill Driscoll and Anne Warren are both leaving us, and we wish them the best of luck in the future! Tricia Schutz is doing a talk on children and trauma at the Family Center, website address for more information. Tammy Ricke and Lester Menke are both up and running and seeing adults and couples. Some of the clinics’ specialities include art therapy with children/adolescents/adults, attachment therapy, and couples work. We take most insurance including Medicaid and Badgercare, and offer flexible appointments. Referrals can come in by calling the clinic or by emailing, and we can check your insurance benefits before the appointment. Contact Dorothy for insurance information: 262.388.9425 or Thank you for considering us and also recommending our services! Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, and I enjoyed reading Julianne Morrison’s article on rituals! Til next time, be gentle with yourself and others.

Devona Marshall