Small rituals, repeated daily, become a solid bedrock of resiliency to ground your child’s connection to you and his family. Daily routines offer rich opportunities to create comforting, familiar patterns and expectations: how family members greet each other in the morning and when they return home, how they say goodbye, how they get ready for work, school, meals, and bed. Snack time, dance parties in the kitchen, bedtime stories, sharing highs and lows of the day while you and your child do the dishes or make the beds together, walks around the block—there are endless possibilities for all different ages and interests.
Positive daily rituals give a reliable structure to the day and something to look forward to through good times and bad. When your child is having fun with friends or a good day at school, these positive experiences will help her look forward to connecting with you and sharing her experiences. When she is having a rough time and her day is not going so well—maybe a new friend won’t play anymore, she got a bad score on an assignment, or was dumped by a boyfriend or girlfriend—she will look forward to the comfort of knowing that you will be there to greet her when she gets home, and she will be able to count on the dependable daily routines of respect and connection you are building. She will have the resiliency to work through her challenges, with the solid support of daily rituals of connection.
When new challenges come along, having a deep reserve of daily connection from these routines will help your child hold on to a sense of himself as a dearly loved, well-understood, accepted, and respected human being. These lasting memories will help him have the resiliency to weather the storms of life, from losing a competition to losing a friend, or even losing confidence in himself for a while.
Cal’s Story – For as long as I can remember my parents had a daily ritual before Dad went to work and every evening when he came home. They gave each other three little kisses, and each little kiss represented one little word: I…Love…You!
We witnessed those “three little kisses” day after day, year in and year out, and we felt their love for one another. Of course, they weren’t perfect—no one is—but at the end of each day, whatever the ups and downs, they remembered that they loved and respected each other. When my sisters and I were long gone from the home, raising families of our own, we knew that our parents still loved each other and still shared those little kisses every morning and every night.
Even after 58 years of marriage, as Mom lay in a hospital bed set up in the dining room of their home, Dad leaned over the bed railing and asked for a kiss. She opened her eyes, found her strength, and puckered up just long enough to give him the last “three little kisses” they would share in this life.
Parenting Strategy – All family traditions start sometime, so why not today? Positive little routines, repeated over and over, have tremendous power to shape your child’s sense of family and security. There are many options, but the important thing is to actually pick one and put it into practice. A powerful start might be to create one new way of saying “I love you.” It could be as simple as a fist bump, a touch on the shoulder, a special goodbye or hello, or even three little kisses. Talk to your child and let her know what it means to you.
Now, this next one is going to be tough for most of you, but I promise it will be of immense value. If you have any screens in your household (TVs, video games, tablets, cell phones, etc.), every day, for at least a few minutes, turn off all—repeat all—of them. Your child’s screens, your screens, off. All of them. Spend some time face-to-face.
Start with just a few minutes and gradually increase as your connection builds. Give him your undivided attention. Make space for secure attachment to flourish. Your child needs to connect with you as a caring, committed parent.
Many children today are overly connected to their friends, both in person and online. Friendships with peers are extremely important, but no matter how wonderful your child’s friends are, they are also young people who lack the maturity and wisdom to truly understand, nurture, and protect your growing child, however young or old she may be.
Maybe you will connect best in those precious moments right when your child gets home from school and is more likely to talk about his day; maybe it will be as you prepare, eat, or clean up after dinner. Whatever you choose, start today, start small, build up, and repeat daily. If you miss a day, start again the next day and keep going. Your child will come to feel seen, known, and understood with a deep and safe attachment. Make it a family tradition.
Consider the immense impact Cal’s parents had with their repeated three little kisses. Simple little traditions provide many fond and happy memories, creating important anchors for your child now and throughout her life. You can build a reserve of memories through daily rituals in your family and provide your child with the resiliency that comes from the steady, predictable, and comforting patterns of safety and security.
By Calvert F Cazier, PhD, MPH and Anne Evans-Cazier, LCSW
Calvert F Cazier, PhD, MPH and Anne Evans-Cazier, LCSW have five kids, ten grandkids, and one amazing great-granddaughter. Combined, they have over 50 years of professional experience helping people lead healthier, happier lives, plus a lifetime of facing their own personal challenges from Tourette syndrome and ADD to cancer, death of a spouse, divorce and creating a blended family, to name just a few. Now, they are ready to help you and your family build the resiliency you need to overcome your challenges now and in the future.
Learn more at www.ResilientChild.com
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