"The pressures and fast pace of today's society have taken away the times of quiet togetherness which we should have with our children... We all know how quickly they grow up and leave us, so let us not wait until it is too late."
—Elizabeth G. Hainstock, Teaching Montessori in the Home
When the family navigates major transitions, the impacts are life-changing. Whether adjusting to a new child or an ill parent, or suddenly working and schooling from home, our family traditions can help us stay grounded. The unknowns and disrupted routines caused by the pandemic have made life difficult, yet provided opportunities for positive family experiences.
Lifestyle changes encourage us to add "times of quiet togetherness" and new activities to our routines that help our children feel secure. At the same time, we can have some relaxing fun together.
Being home more may have allowed you to find the underlying pleasure of not having that ever-present schedule control your life and push you out the door. The days can be more leisurely, even when working from home. Younger children can do more at their own pace, rather than be hurried here or there according to the tight schedule of activities, work, school, lessons, sports, or play dates.
Without the pull of outside demands, you may have discovered your own rhythm again. Now you have time to focus on what is important to you. Your family is living a new life and there are gifts along the way, side-by-side with the many challenges. Perhaps everyone gathers for dinner which was nearly impossible before. It's fun to be able to linger at the table since no one must race off to one activity or another. Plus, everyone is available to help with clean-up and household chores, even if there is some expected resistance. As Maria Montessori observed, the young child wants to help and loves the feelings of accomplishment when "doing it myself."
As children have more responsibility in running the household and experience their contributions, they gain self-confidence and feel like valuable members of the family. Research over the past sixty years has proven the benefit of family rituals and demonstrates that children whose families have regular celebrations and traditions are more secure, independent, and successful as adults.
The more we can help our children feel safe during uncertain times, the better. So let's create some new family rituals—things to look forward to and later to look back on as unique and special family occasions. I fondly remember how my family would gather every Tuesday and Thursday evening for my father to read the latest chapter of a classic tale such as Robinson Crusoe or Little House on the Prairie. On New Year's Day, we eagerly anticipated the pineapple upside down cake my mother baked every year. The more things children can count on and predict, the easier life will be for them.
Traditions need not be labor-intensive nor require lots of preparation. Just choose something that includes everyone no matter their ages and repeat it on a regular basis. It can be weekly or monthly, though during a time of increased family togetherness, daily or weekly is best. You may already have your own family traditions, but here are ideas for more:
You will have many other original ideas. The value is in being together and feeling relaxed. You are making memories that everyone will cherish.
—by Jane M. Jacobs, M.A., Montessori Educational Consultant at Montessori Services. She is a trained primary Montessori directress and also a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. She has taught children aged 2 to 7 years in Montessori schools, Headstart, and also in a preschool for children with developmental challenges. In her counseling practice, she helps individuals, couples, and families.
—Originally Published 2020