I am a firm believer in the value and power of rituals - from everyday rituals that seem more like habits to rituals associated with special occasions and holidays. Rituals offer a sense of security in their familiarity and predictability. They help connect individuals and bring communities together. During this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, daily rituals like taking a bath, family rituals like eating dinner together, and rituals around holidays have special importance for kids. They provide a schedule and markings of time when 'normal' routines have been disrupted or erased. Below are some ways you can build on rituals that you are probably already doing, and ideas for new ones that can help offer a bit of consistency or stability during this time of unpredictability and uncertainty for little ones to teens.
For little ones, maintaining bedtime routines can be especially important when schedules are quick to change from one day to the next. Bedtime is a typical time for routines and continuing them and building on them could greatly benefit young children. From the consistent bedtime, to reading stories, keeping these rituals in place can offer a sense of safety and help to reduce anxiety caused by the daily upheaval and the unknown of what tomorrow will bring. You can also introduce new rituals that can be done at bedtime to encourage sleep by slowing down their minds and bodies and helping them to relax.
Journaling is a great way to create a daily ritual that allows for creativity, self-expression, and memory-keeping. It can also offer kids a tool for getting feelings and emotions out on paper instead of bottling them up. Encourage older kids to create a weekly video journal briefly documenting a few happenings from their week, e.g. highlights, surprises, thoughts, feelings, who they connected with, one thing they learned from their e-studies, one thing they learned about themselves. They can use a smartphone, digital camera, tablet or computer. Some kids really get into it, but of course, when I suggested this to ours they weren't buying. So, in our house, we interview each of our kids with a list of questions and video their responses using our phones. The same questions are asked each week. Just a quick 5 minutes before or after dinner every Friday. It felt important to archive some of their experiences during this difficult yet significant moment in time.
This is my go to. I grew up in a home where everything revolved around food. Eating together, cooking together, hosting, socializing, celebrating, grieving, comforting... it all involved food. Food was and remains the embodiment of ritual for me and my family. There are many ways to find ritual in sharing or making meals, in meal planning, in getting take-out, ordering delivery, and picking up lunches from the school lunch program. You can plant food, grow food, and compost food. I love the process of growing food from scraps in our kitchen. It's a simple activity that kids can do at home with the food already in your fridge! The act of "planting" them, feeding/watering them, and watching them grow daily is a ritual that offers learning and connection to our land's resources and and doing our share for the environment.
Holidays and Annual Events
Find new ways to celebrate holidays and important family, cultural and religious rituals that have meaning to your family. Last month, there were many who participated in Zoom Passover and Easter dinners with extended family, and participated in virtual worship in celebration of Ramadan. Neighborhoods coordinated Easter Egg Hunts by asking residents to place paper easter eggs in their windows for young children to seek on their walks.
This month there are a lot of kids graduating from milestone school years. Our local high school had 'Congratulations Class of 2020' yard signs made for all 900+ graduating seniors and more than 115 teachers and school staff delivered them to the students' houses. The signs give families and friends an opportunity to exhibit their pride in the teen's accomplishment, and the collective act symbolizes a community coming together to celebrate the graduates. Birthdays are being celebrated by friends driving in procession in front of the celebrant's house with signs and songs. These physical-distanced and virtual celebrations offer a way to maintain social connections and celebrate important life events with friends and family while being safe and socially responsible.
A simple daily check-in can go a long way. There are a lot of feelings and emotions that kids are navigating as a result of the pandemic. Fear of the virus, the frustration of not being able to go out and see friends, the lack of structure typically provided by school, the decrease in physical activity offered by extracurriculars and sports, and the loss of many events and celebrations. Checking-in with each other every day is a simple routine that illustrates love and care, and it can also open the door to talking about and sorting through some of those feelings and emotions. Here are some links to tips and ideas for checking in with kids and fostering conversations about how they can express and manage feelings during this time.