Each month, Dr. Levy answers a common question he has received from professionals, caregivers and parents during three decades of pioneering work on attachment theory, treatment and training.

Family routines and rituals increase your child’s sense of belonging.

Routines, such as eating dinner, getting dressed or preparing for bed, are “patterned interactions that occur with predictable regularity in the course of everyday living.” (Kubicek 2002) Routines provide a way to accomplish a certain task and an opportunity to connect with your child. They organize family life, reinforce family identity and enhance a sense of belonging. Research has shown the benefits of family routines. Young children from high-risk families did better cognitively and socially and were more cooperative and compliant with teachers when caregivers provided consistent routines (Keltner 1990; Norton 1993). It is important for parents to take an active role in the routines because this is a chance to connect to your child.

Family rituals are emotionally meaningful and convey the message, “This is who we are; this is what it means to be part of this family.” (Fiese 2002). Rituals foster a sense of belonging and identity and are especially important for children with insecure attachments. Children from families with meaningful rituals do better academically and socially. When rituals are disrupted or lost, children develop behavioral and school problems (Fiese 2000).

In addition to enhancing your child’s sense of belonging, here are some benefits of having family routines and rituals:

  • organized family life through structure and predictability;
  • defined roles and responsibilities;
  • reinforced family identity;
  • contributions to family stability;
  • strengthened parent-child bonds;
  • internalized morality, beliefs and values of the family;
  • improved emotional self-control through safety and comfort;
    reduced stress through predictability; and
  • increased trust and sense of security.

Family rituals that enhance a sense of belonging are:

  • shared family mealtime;
  • enjoyable activities on the weekends, such as sports and movies;
  • family vacations;
  • celebrations, such as birthdays, anniversaries and reunions;
  • religious holidays; and
  • cultural traditions that recognize ethnic roots, such as gatherings, camps and preparing ethnic foods together.

Previous articles addressed questions about the Seven Functions of Secure Attachment, the Dependency Paradox, the importance of talking about trauma, the First Year Attachment Cycle, traits of successful and healthy adult relationshipsthe importance of hope as a part of treatment for traumathe core concepts of child developmentparenting strategies for deescalating conflict, the importance of touch to fostering attachment and the 10Cs of Healing Parenting.