Written by Madeline Vann, NCC, M.Ed. at White Cloud Therapeutic Services
We’ve all been home together for a week now and let’s face it – no one knows what day it is or what time it is. If this was a beach side vacation, that would be healthy and appropriate. But it’s not, and for everyone’s well being, we need to talk about routines and rituals
Everyone in a household benefits from structure in the day. It’s a good idea to stick to more or less regular sleep and wake times – building in enough hours for everyone to get a healthy amount of sleep (that will reduce stress!). What else do we need in a routine? It’s going to depend on what your family has to take care of, and whether routines are also put in place by outside entities, such as work.
A basic routine would be one that maintains regular sleep/wake times, meal times, and some kind of times for movement and activity. Then you can build in the rest of the structure – school work at set times, screen time at set times (and, yes, put a limit on it, even now!), and time for other activities that matter to you. Write out a daily or weekly schedule and invite the kids to have a role in that. Perhaps there are things they would also like to schedule. In our household right now, the weekend family SuperSmash Brothers tournament is set in stone. It’s only about 45 minutes, but it’s something to look forward to.
This is also a good time to think about the small and big rituals in your family – and whether you want to change them. Think about how you greet each other, how you let each other know you all are loved, and other moments for rituals. For example, saying Grace or having a moment of gratitude over shared meals (ideally meals without screens!) are simple rituals that can make a big difference. Likewise, look at the rituals leading up to bedtime – quieting down, taking a bath or a shower, reading together and any other calm and connected steps towards sleep. Bedtime can be a high conflict time for families – what can you do to make bedtime more about connection and less about conflict?
Which leads me to the problem of unplanned rituals. These are the ways that we treat each other without really thinking about it, but they seem to become rituals. For example – does your family have yelling rituals or door slamming rituals (or, worse, hitting/kicking/biting/namecalling/substance use rituals) around turning off screens, going to bed, doing schoolwork, or any other activity? Believe it or not this is a “ritual” because it likely happens on a predictable basis – and you can decide to change these rituals as well.
I could go on for a long time about the ways that we can choose to create simple rituals that connect us to our loved ones, but I’ll just leave you with this – if your days right now are feeling unstructured, or even full of conflict, it’s a good time to ask for help. The usual structure of all our lives has been upended, and it’s not easy to create something new and temporary.
Counselors are in our office are offering private and confidential Telehealth sessions to help individuals, couples, and families navigate the uncharted and sometimes very stressful times we are in – whether you’d like help with routines and rituals or there are other pressing issues you want to discuss.
Article was written and sponsored by Resident in Counseling Madeline Vann, NCC, M.Ed. at White Cloud Therapeutic Services