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The weather has gotten cooler and the leaves are dropping, autumn is here in all of its colorful glory. Fall leading into winter is rich in traditions, meals, and gatherings. Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's are all holidays that we tend to have fond memories of and look forward to our family traditions and rituals with great anticipation. Each tradition is unique to each family making them so special.

Traditions or rituals are different from routines. Routines are what we do on a day to day basis. For example, brushing our teeth. There is no anticipation to brushing our teeth each day; it's something we know needs to be done to avoid cavities, so we do it. There is no feeling associated with a routine.

Rituals, on the other hand, have feelings attached to them. In our house, we have always celebrated Christmas with extended family and friends. We never know year to year who will be with us, but all are welcome. Our children look forward to this special time of being all together with family and friends. This is something we have passed down to them, and we hope they pass this special ritual down to their children. 

Rituals give children a sense of belonging. They feel comfort and security knowing that something is going to happen, and that they are involved. It helps their self-esteem and gives them a sense of empowerment.

There are other rituals that you can create for your child to establish that sense of belonging. A bedtime ritual may be reading a book with your child before bed then kissing them goodnight. This is a consistent one on one time your child will look forward to each night. And when that book is over—it's lights out! Knowing what is going to happen next gives your child a sense of security.

The holidays can be a hectic, so next time you think about all of the bells and whistles that go along with the season—stop and consider—what has meaning for your family and reinforces security for your child. Then proceed with your own rituals and be secure in knowing you don't have to do it all.

Cindy Brison MS RD

Registered Dietitian from UNL Extension

Cindy Brison has worked in the nutrition field since 1989. She has a  Master of Science degree in Community Nutrition and a Bachelor of Science degree in Dietetics. Cindy is a mother of three and specializes in teaching food safety, gardening, cooking, and health and wellness classes to childcare providers, youth groups, and adults. Learn more about Cindy and the other UNL Extension nutrition experts at ...

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