So as you may (or may not) recall, a couple weeks ago, I posted about encouragement rituals. And after that, I got to thinking about all the different rituals that we use in our home each day. And how it’s highly likely that many of you do the same kinds of things (but some of you may not) so for the next few posts I just want to take a step back and visit some of what we do for the daily rituals in our home. And hopefully, even though your family make-up is highly likely to be different than ours, it will give you some good food for thought on how rituals can help bring some calm and peace to your home.
Before I go much further, I feel I must clarify here: when I say “ritual”, I really mean (for the most part) “routine”. But I use the word ritual because I feel like it carries with it a little more weight and significance…and maybe some additional understanding that a specific activity or action might be a little more necessary to utilize with kids from hard places…because as you probably know, they often need that routine so much more than neurotypical kiddos. And so by referring to it as a “ritual” instead of “routine”, I am bringing some additional significance to it.
Now before I begin, I feel I must include this disclaimer: obviously I wish this were not the case, but nothing is full-proof, and even the best intentions may not work out as anticipated. Also, it might take you a little bit of time to find the right ritual, the right timing…everything. And more than likely once you find a good rhythm to your rituals, they will change…welcome to parenting, right?
There are multiple portions of the day/year I’d like to talk about, but the first one I would like to talk about is the morning rituals: what does the day look like when the child first gets up and gets moving out the door. This seems like it would be first (at least in my mind, especially on a school day) but there might be something else which takes precedent in your home: does the child eat first and then get dressed, or vice versa? For our youngest son, I know that he’s going to need to eat soon after getting up…regardless of whatever time that is. So I try to “beat the clock” and get up before him each day; fortunately I am usually successful, and I must admit it makes things go more smoothly when I have a minute to breathe before the day really kicks off. But more about that in another post.
Each night before I go to bed, I have the dishes set out for his medicine and his meal. (Most of the time he eats the exact same thing for breakfast, which makes it easy to guess what dishes and utensils he will need.) So since he needs to eat right away, I can almost always fix his breakfast as soon as I hear him stirring. So there’s ritual in the meal.
I fully realize that not every child likes to eat the same thing every morning so that might be something you have to figure out. Sometimes he does like to throw a curveball in there, but I let him navigate and just try my best to follow along and at least keep part of the breakfast items the same each day.
The next thing to consider is what is happening while the child is eating breakfast: Do you sit with a child while they eat? Is it a time to check homework that needs to be turned in that day or is that something that happened the previous night? If you’re not checking homework, what is happening? Maybe you can have a lighthearted game together before they go to school? I fully realize that if there are multiple children of multiple ages, etc., so a leisurely game of Uno might not be possible, but I’m just throwing it out there for consideration.
Another thought is to maybe have a book that you could read aloud to them as they eat. My older boys did not necessarily enjoy a read aloud, but my youngest son absolutely loves it. He is an auditory learner, so there is that, and my other two were not. But maybe you could work your way through a series…Percy Jackson, or a Little House on the Prairie or Coyote Peterson‘s Adventures. Something that they can all find interest in and enjoy listening to while they’re eating. You can talk about it afterward…or not. Maybe you just read a chapter, or part of a chapter each morning, and let the reading speak for itself. Regardless of how you do it, it offers an opportunity for connection with your child. And if you choose something like reading, it becomes part of their morning rituals.
Clearly I could go on and on about the morning rituals and how it loops together and connects with all that needs to be done each day, but instead I’ll simply run through some more food for thought:
- Does the child choose their own clothes or do you? Are they already picked out the night before and laid out, or does the choosing happen in the morning? If you do the clothing selection the same every time, it becomes like a ritual.
- If the child is taking a lunch, when is it packed and who packs it? If you pack the lunch in the same manner each day, it becomes like a ritual.
- What does getting out the door look like? Is it always the same, or is it different based on the morning? (For us, it would be different each morning…try as I might to streamline things!) If you have the same order/process of things for getting out the door each morning, it becomes like a ritual.
- Are they on their own to make sure they have what they need or are you helping them? Is there a checklist to make sure they have what they need? Or is that done the night before? If they use a checklist, it becomes like a ritual.
- And finally, the words of encouragement as they head toward the bus; these might include something like, “Have a good day! Keep your hands to yourself! Be a good friend! I love you!” Yes, you guessed it: it becomes like a ritual.
Like I said…these morning rituals are not something set in stone, and more than likely will be subject to change over time. I mention them because they (along with any other ritualistic activity you do) can help provide predictability which leads to security which leads to felt safety. Knowing what to expect, and then actually experiencing it, also can promote and encourage some of the healing all children from hard places desire and need.
I wish there was a magic formula I could give to tell you what to do and when to do it… but as with all parenting, you are the one who knows your child best, and what would help him thrive, so I hope you can use this as an impetus for establishing (or continuing) some consistent morning rituals. And bottom line: anything you do repeatedly in the morning before school can become ritualistic if you allow it.