To safely interact online it is becoming increasingly evident that our kids are going to require more resilience than ever before. Whilst we like focus on teaching kindness and the importance of empathy, it is unfortunately very true of this new world, that when communicating online, we open ourselves up to all sorts of personalities and behaviours, some of which requires a very thick skin to overcome or ignore.
A recent study by Andrew Fuller, found that the common link between kids who were found to have characteristics of being resilient, also overwhelmingly reported to have parents who listened. Whilst there can be many factors that enable a parent to be a good listener, one way we can help this process is by providing our kids with family rituals. These rituals can be as simple as sitting down together as a family to the evening meal.
A recent study in the UK found that less than a third of families sit down together for regular meals (They also found, that in families where they did eat meals together, the children were found to concentrate better at school, have better social skills and get in to less trouble). Sometimes it isn’t always easy to sit down to a meal every night. Some families have shift workers, or kids that need to eat before mum or dad gets home, or kids that have sports practise. My own kids eat fairly late in comparison to many, but for me it is more important we have that time together sitting down as a family. But if it doesn’t work out that you can sit down to a family meal there are plenty of other ways you can create rituals. It is about those moments when your kids will one day look back and say “remember when we used to…”. I did it just the other day when I was talking to my dad and reminding my kids of our Saturday night ritual. My brother and I would go with dad to get fish and chips and whilst they were ‘cooking’ we would walk next door to the milk bar where we were allowed to meticulously choose a white bag full of mixed lollies. We had a Wednesday roast at my nannas for all the family, we had Sunday visits to grandparents, Christmas Eve carol singing and many other rituals that helped provide a plethora of great memories.
The family rituals not only provide a time for real conversation, connection and listening to each other, but they help provide that stable and secure environment. There doesn’t always even need to be a lot of talking. The reliability and comfort that comes with these ritualistic experiences can be crucial to a child’s sense of belonging. We also know that this sense of belonging helps give kids the confidence to enjoy positive relationships outside the family home, both online and in real life.
Whether it is a nightly meal, a weekly pizza outing, a family movie night, a boardgame night once a week, a Wii tournament, summertime beach cricket, a bedtime story or chat or a milkshake on the way home from basketball, rituals help facilitate the moments of connection between parents and kids.
In a world where resilience is going to be an essential element of living and interacting in a positive manner, we need to take every opportunity we can to help provide kids with the stable, supportive environments that helps them build on their resilience, their sense of self and their confidence in their place in the world.