Strengthening Parent-Child Relationship – Bonding with Your Child Using Rituals

As parents we try to offer our best to our children and always be there for them. While our babies are small, some mothers bond with their infants through breastfeeding. Some others “wear” their babies in a sling or sing lullaby to them. Eventually, we all develop different ways to bond with our children.

We are human beings of rituals. We practice many rituals throughout a year or even within a day. Rituals are one of the many factors that distinguish a culture or religion from one another. Family rituals can help building the family bond and its identity. Further, rituals can also offer our children tradition, cultures, and values and provide stability and predictability.

Using rituals to bond with our children is almost as natural as breastfeeding. Rituals can be a very fun, loving and special time between parents and their children.

There are actually many kinds of rituals. There are “practical” rituals and daily routine that guide our children and ourselves to go through the day – e.g. brush your teeth when you get up or go to bed, turn on the coffee maker before you get your daily news, etc. There are also “seasonal & holiday” rituals that we practice at and plan for certain festivals, holidays and major seasons. Traditional and Seasonal rituals can be serious, fun, exciting, educational, enjoyable and can be enriched with various meanings and history. However, there can also be “loving” rituals for our children.

Vancouver is a very multi-cultural and diverse city. There are many mixed-cultural marriages, adopted families, foster families and inter-generational differences due to immigration. With so many differences in our city or within a family, family rituals can offer stability and predictability for our children. Family can create their own rituals to bond as a group. We can offer our children “loving” rituals to strengthen our relationships and to leave them with special childhood memories. Loving rituals can be silly and fun. They will make our children feel loved and special. These rituals don’t always have to be serious and educational. Sometimes family rituals are created spontaneously and these silly ideas often becomes part of the child’s life. They will also become special loving memory of your children. It is always best to adapt certain games or ideas to your own and according to your child’s needs. As adults, we all have different rituals at these upcoming Christmas Season, why can’t we use rituals with older children? Or even Teenagers? It is important to remember that we can use rituals even with older children but it’s the best to start young.

Here are some ideas for loving / silly rituals for toddlers or younger children:

After bath, put baby oil on your child’s fingers and toes or put little bit of lotion onto each of your child’s toe & finger if your child is older. Kiss / Tickle his or her toes & fingers. Sing a song while putting lotion, or make silly sounds, or play pat-a-cake or just gently say something like, “this is _____ little toe and mommy loves it very much”, “Let mommy count each toe and finger… check if they are all there.”

Meanings of this above simple ritual:

  • By being silly and fun, we get down to our children’s level and show that we understand them. We are not always teaching or serious. You show to them you love them not because of what they “can do” or “how they behave”, it is because of who they are.
  • By touching their toes/ fingers (physical touch), we should them we value, accept and love their bodies. There is no shame to be who you are and what you look like. This will support them to accept their bodies and themselves as a “whole person”.
  • By spending this little special time with them, we show to them we love them and they are worthy of our time. This will increase self-esteem and confidence.
  • Adding fun rituals to certain routines will help children to look forward to “boring” task or chores. This is because they look forward to their special time with you – to be accepted unconditionally and to be loved.

Please remember that it is always possible for a family to observe the same festival or holiday season with a mixed-cultural or inter-cultural perspective. Although preserving traditions is very important, we don’t always have to follow one single tradition in the exact way. By being open to different ideas, we can allow an opportunity for our children to accept and learn about differences. We can show them that adapting things from old ideas to new ideas is possible. We can integrate different cultural food or ideas into a holiday season. If you are in a cross cultural marriage or relationship, you can role-model to your children that a person can enter into another person’s world and be respectful at the same time – which is always one of the key factors in a successful marriage regardless of your cultural background.