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mattbrowne's avatar

What do you think about the importance of rituals for children?

Asked by mattbrowne (31643points) July 5th, 2010

A growing number of people seem to think that many rituals are ridiculous or merely relics of the past. Many psychologists however observe that especially children love rituals. Is this related to their immaturity? Or is there a deeper purpose behind it? How important or unimportant are rituals? Are they beneficial or dangerous? Might rituals even cause people to become superstitious?

Here’s an interesting article:

“Ask any adult what they remember about childhood and they’ll recall an event that centered around a family tradition or ritual. The family meal, a holiday gathering or even a nightly bedtime routine are all memorable events in a child’s mind. Although a young child’s major objective is to become a separate individual, young children also need to form a strong concept of their place in a larger group: the family. Family rituals can enhance a preschooler’s identity, provide continuity during times of stress and connect generations in an enduring bond.

Kids find rituals fascinating – artistically, spiritually and emotionally. Ritual may already be a well-established, set routine in a preschooler’s family handed down through the generations. When you include young children in these important events, they will feel that they are an invaluable part of the family group. Preschoolers can be given jobs of honor such as being in charge of turning off the lights at family birthday parties when the cake is brought in or putting Great-Grandma’s silverware away after it is polished.”

What is your opinion?

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15 Answers

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I know structure is necessary in children’s life and rituals are all about structure – so, I don’t see a problem with rituals for children..just depends on what they’re about. Mostly, the rituals my kids are aware of are birthdays, deaths, protests and weddings.

Cruiser's avatar

Rituals, ceremonies etc. are building blocks for a child’s identity and they do crave and thrive on familial rituals especially when the ritual explore a part of their family history.

marinelife's avatar

Rituals are vital to forming family bonds. Just your own rituals and larger community rituals. I remember going to the fireworks for the Fourth of July. I remember putting on our PJs and going to the drive-in to watch 101 Dalmatians.

I remember singing Christmas carols in the car on the way home from 11 P.M. Christmas Eve church service.

These things are magical.

cookieman's avatar

I know in my daughter’s life they are very important. As much as we try to teach her to be independent and think for herself, there is no denying the comfort that comes with a certain amount of structure.

Seek's avatar

This is rather hard for me to answer. In my own family life, “rituals” were uncomfortable, unpleasant experiences.

Sure, I can draw up plenty of memories surrounding family dinners. One Thanksgiving my grandmother said I looked like a “satanic whore” because I wore fingerless gloves. That same weekend one of my favorite books was stolen from me and burned because it was “pornography” (Morgan Llywelyn’s “Druids”)

My favorite memories are things like the week I had a horrible flu, and my Daddy stayed up all night with me watching Flipper and Bewitched reruns, and reading X-Men comic books. I remember walking around the neighborhood with him after a blizzard, and shoveling out everybody’s driveway. No less than eight people had us in for hot chocolate that day.

While I’d love to find traditional holidays important, I just don’t have that drive. I decorate for Yule, but I don’t really celebrate it. We have an “Anti-Holiday” party every year – no presents, no traditions… just one night for everyone to forget about the stress and expectations and have fun. That’s what’s most important to me.

ratboy's avatar

My life and those of my siblings and parents were immeasurably enhanced by the Satanic ritual abuse that has been passed down generation after generation in our family. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without that penetrating experience. I do wonder, however, how those of my siblings who were sacrificed and devoured would have turned out.

tranquilsea's avatar

I think routines and rituals are important to children…and to adults. There is a reason why humans create them where ever and when ever.

My mom was wonderful at creating the biggest Christmases, Easters, Thanksgivings, Halloweens and birthdays. We didn’t have much money growing up and she used those holidays to spoil us as much as she could.

I was lazy about creating family rituals when my kids where younger mostly because we spent most holidays with my mom, who went over the top. When we moved away from my mom I had to work double time to create our own rituals. My kids love them.

I agree with @Seek_Kolinahr that some religious beliefs or rituals are extremely damaging to the individuality of children. But that usually comes from how people interpret their faith and then how they choose to unleash it on those around them.

Seaofclouds's avatar

I can see rituals as being good and bad. When I think back to our holiday meals, I remember feeling the pressure of getting the house clean, cooking the food, serving our guests, and then cleaning up. It was my responsibility as the oldest and the daughter to help my mom with everything while my dad and younger brother got to relax and enjoy the festivity. I remember the family gathering and chatting and it was nice because there were family members there that we would only see once or twice a year. I just wish I had more time with them at those events.

Our events are more laid back. We don’t worry about the house being perfect and we don’t worry about cleaning everything up right away. At this point, my son’s only responsibility is to behave and have fun. For us to spend a holiday with family, it means someone is traveling (either us to them or them to us).

perspicacious's avatar

I think consistency, routine, and some rituals to be good for kids. It provides a kind of security. I’ve read a lot about this over the years and haven’t changed my mind since I reared my own daughters.

YARNLADY's avatar

In a changing world like ours, too much reliance on ritual can be damaging. However, I just saw a report that providing a regular bed time for pre-schoolers helps increase their development.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

This was a topic at our dinner table the other night and the consensus was, if there’s anything you’d like a kid to remember and develop as part of themselves then do it before 5yrs old because it seems to work, good and bad stuff.

OpryLeigh's avatar

I have very positive memories of “rituals” I prefer the word “traditions” from when I was a child but, as others have said, it depends what the ritual is based around. I think lighthearted, fun rituals are a good thing for forming family bonds. For example, my dad loves Christmas and has made many of his own traditions over the years that have stuck. My favourite being, every Christmas he would always hide one present (usually a book) in our beds so that we would find it at the end of the day. If things like this count as rituals then I am a fan. However, I’m sure there are many like @Seek_Kolinahr that have bad memories of certain rituals that may have been forced upon them as young children.

mattbrowne's avatar

Thank you very much for sharing your thoughts including the great many anecdotes. Yes, rituals are not necessarily good, just because they are rituals. Same for traditions. But choosing new rituals raising your own children is always an option. Hopefully the bad memories will fade…

zenele's avatar

The ritual of being beaten with a belt I could do without.

Family dinners, holidays, the Sabbath, weekly special meals (I got a couple of recipes I’ve perfected over the years the kids now look forward to) – even movies, theater and concerts, sports and more – these provide a good foundation both for bonding, learning and future traditions – for now, and for when it’s time the kids have their own children. Not too long now. Getting older.

tranquilsea's avatar

@zenele We actually got the opportunity to debate, as kids, which hurt more belts or square wooden sticks. At one point we were smart or brave enough to gather all the sticks up and throw them into a ravine

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