Skip to main navigation Skip to content
Please enter a search term

Family rituals - why are they important?

Like what you see?

Sign up to receive more free parenting advice.

Young family having fun together at home


We all love the big occasions. The joy of seeing your children’s faces on Christmas morning. The sense of togetherness you feel at a family member’s birthday, or during a cultural holiday.

Big occasion rituals provide families with the perfect opportunity to revel in each other’s company and celebrate their own cultural traditions.

Family rituals create a sense of connection 

University of Queensland Associate Professor Alina Morawska who is Deputy Director (Research) at the Parenting and Family Support Centre says there are many reasons rituals are important for families and children.

“Family rituals create a sense of continuity across generations and create a sense of connection to different family members of different generations,” she says.

“Rituals also have a cultural element and whatever they are, whether that’s a festival or a special day or an international day, they can create a sense of culture and community and that’s really important for families.”

As well as the big family occasions, many families have their own unique rituals and these are just as important for building togetherness, but they also have other benefits.

“Obviously those shared things that they do together will differ across families and some families will have fairly special and unique things that are linked to their own culture and some things will be quirky things that they have developed on their own,” Associate Professor Morawska says.

“What is important is that the family ritual creates bonds and relationships within families and I think that’s a really important element of those rituals - they are part of who you are as an individual family.”

What is important is that the family ritual creates bonds and relationships within families and I think that’s a really important element of those rituals- they are part of who you are as an individual family.
Associate Professor Alina Morawska

Family rituals build confidence in our children

Whatever form they take from the large rituals like birthdays, Christmas or cultural holidays; to the day-to-day, smaller and unique rituals; family rituals are an important part of family life and help create a sense of unity and togetherness.

Family rituals represent shared quality time. Time to connect, to share, to regroup and be together as a family.

Rituals can also help families develop a set of values and that provides children with a way of approaching and exploring the world, says Associate Professor Morawska.

The benefits of family rituals also can’t be discounted for their focus on building relationships, attachments and a sense of belonging in young children.

“Relationships are really important for everyone and developing those relationships with children is essential,” she says.

“Being part of a group, part of a family is important and every group has its own rituals and its own ideals and own values and that includes family groups.”

By purposely creating, or letting rituals develop organically in their families, parents can ensure their children feel safe and secure.

“Being part of something, being part of a family creates a sense of bonding, it creates a sense of security and especially for very young children, it provides a safe base to explore the world around them.”

Real life: a quirky family ritual that is here to stay

On a recent family holiday, just before bed time when my own family was gathered on the couch chatting about our day and planning out the next, my five-year-old asked me if I wanted a foot massage.

Soon enough all three children were into the moisturizer, rubbing it into each other’s feet, giggling and chattering away to each other.  

And so began our family massage ritual. Every weekend, holiday or just when we find ourselves with a quiet moment before bedtime, one of our children will declare it “foot rub time” and run to the couch and it is foot rubs for all.

While quirky and not for all families, our family foot rub ritual affords us with a lovely opportunity to connect as a family, talk about things that have happened that day and create a relaxed atmosphere before bedtime- which always helps the bedtime routine go more smoothly.

Family Ritual ideas

Every family has their own unique way of doing things and viewing the world. We’ve collected some family rituals that you could adapt to suit your own family.

  • DISCO NIGHT: One family with two young boys enjoy a regular family disco session. The children have a system for keeping track of who gets to choose the music. Their parents say it started as a way to help the active boys get some energy out of their systems before the bedtime routine started.
  • FAMILY SLUMBER PARTY: With three young children, and parents who work long hours away from the house, the parents of one family we spoke to said they struggled to spend a lot of time together on a day-to-day basis. So, on their regular family holidays they all move their mattresses into one room and have a giant family slumber party.
  • GOODNIGHT PETS: Animals form an important part of one family’s life. With a dog, a cat, chicken and guinea pigs, the children’s bedtime routine includes the “goodnight pet” ritual, where each family member has to go and say good night to each and every animal.
  • SWEET SONGS: A group singalong of three songs before bedtime has become a must-do ritual in one household. Initially a way to help transition the children to calm time before bed, the two young girls in the household and their mother are very attached to this nightly ritual.
  • CUPCAKES: Any excuse for a cup cake. In this family whenever anyone in the immediate family, or in their broader extended family has a birthday, special occasion or just need some encouragement, the children get together and with the help of one of their parents, they make and decorate cupcakes and deliver them to their recipient.