Everyday occasions

A ritual, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is “a prescribed order of performing religious or other devotional service.” Rituals take place on occasions like Hanukkah, Easter, the Lunar New Year, birthdays, and Thanksgiving. They don’t have to be religious in nature; baking Christmas cookies with your mom and sister is as much a ritual as attending Mass. The simple daily things you do can be can be rituals, too. Maybe your favorite dependable ritual is morning coffee with your spouse, or tucking a note inside your child’s lunchbox, or singing a special song at bath time.

Rituals like these are especially important for adoptive families. They add to the child’s sense of security and belonging, and help him feel seen and heard. They help you recognize what strengthens your family and makes you unique. Rituals are also a way of setting aside predictable, repeatable time to connect with one another. That, in my opinion, is beautiful form of “devotional service” to your children and family.

Strength and security

Adoptive families should strive recognize and integrate rituals that reflect their family’s unique identity. You have the opportunity to incorporate your adopted child’s biological and personal history into your traditions. Read about your child’s culture, cook food, or play games that honour this history. If you have openness with your child’s birth family, they may already have rituals you can embrace.
Rituals have a strong, positive influence on the development of the family and its individual members. They can make change manageable, and will provide something to fall back on when the family goes through inevitable life transitions such as moving, marriages, births and deaths.

Do what works for you

One dad I know takes his young kids for an adventure each weekend. It could be anything — a hike, a water park, rollerblading — but what makes it a ritual is that it is repeated and reliable.

A colleague had a ritual of going out for lunch with her young son once a month. Her son is now grown up and has a child of his own, but he and my colleague still nurture their connection through their monthly lunch ritual. What a gift for them both!

My own cousins go camping to Pacheena Bay on the Labour Day weekend. They’ve been doing this for longer than I can remember. Their extended family is huge now, with children, grandchildren, and even two great-grandchildren, but they still continue this tradition. It provides an amazing sense of connection and continuity for everyone.

Start today

This holiday season, ask yourself “What are my family rituals?” If you don’t have any, start one! Keep it simple, manageable, and enriching. Honour both your small daily rituals and your big transformations ones. They’ll give your family strength and comfort when you go through challenging times.

Lisa Hartley is a professional photographer and Celebrant in Vancouver, BC. Find out more about her services at www.lisahartley.com.