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Routines and rituals boost family wellbeing

During question time at a recent seminar I delivered on Personal Sustainability for Leaders, a professional in the audience asked for tips on how to manage the demands of family life when both parents are working fulltime.

I hesitated to give advice. It’s such a personal, and often touchy issue, how couples parent and work out their distribution of labour. But later I thought of one thing that may have been helpful – a reminder about the power of routines and rituals.

A research review conducted by Barbara Fiese, Professor and Director of the Family Resiliency Center at the University of Ilinois, found that regular routines and enjoyable rituals, not only create a sense of security and help organise daily life, they also enhance the health and wellbeing of families.Fiese’s review of 50 years of research, published in the Journal of Family Psychology, found that:

  • In families with predictable routines, children had better overall health. They slept better, had fewer respiratory illnesses and performed better at primary school. Parents also felt more satisfied and competent in their parenting role.
  • In families with enjoyable rituals, such as birthdays, Christmas or special outings, children had better emotional health.
  • Teenagers in families with strong rituals reported a well-developed sense of self, couples reported happier marriages and family members reported a stronger sense of belonging and group membership.

In short, routines provide predictability and order, which make it easier to stick with different regimens that affect health, such as eating, sleeping and exercise, and the strong emotional bonds forged during rituals lead to a sense of belonging.

So, what are the routines and rituals that support you and your family’s wellbeing? I’d love to hear so do drop me a line. And what areas do you think need some attention? Looking at your personal or family routines around eating, sleep and technology use could be a good place to start. While it can take effort and discipline to develop new routines in the early stages, ultimately they will save you time, energy and stress.

R&R’s that support family health and wellbeing

  • Enforce bedtimes, especially for young children.
  • As a household have a nominated time to unplug devices and power-down.
  • Try to have at least 3 family meals each week.
  • Assign children chores that represent their portion of the family labour.
  • Plan family weekends often and holidays at least once a year.
  • Plan for special one-to-one time between couples and between parent and child.
  • Consider creating new family rituals when old ones no longer work. For routines or rituals to retain their health-enhancing effect they need to be kept up to date and in tune with children’s needs as they mature.
  • If you’d like some professional help establishing healthy routines you can read about how Health Coaching works here.