Rituals: The Glue that Bonds Families


When I was growing up in San Francisco in the 50s, my favorite day of the week was Thursday. That’s when my grandparents came over for dinner. It always felt like a party. My mom cooked a special meal. My grandma told us stories about the early days of San Francisco. My grandpa entertained my two brothers and me with riddles and puzzles and games. One of those games took place at our dinner table. We always ate at the dining room table when my grandparents came over—my dad sat at one end, my grandpa at the other and me just to his right.

As soon as my mom set a cup of coffee in front of my grandpa, that was our cue to start the ritual. Then it was a race between my brothers and me to be the first one to say: “First saccharin putter-inner!”

Whoever said it first got to take the little white saccharin tablet from my grandpa’s pillbox and drop it into his coffee. Then my grandpa would reach into his pocket and pull out a shiny new dime and give it to the winner: the first “saccharin putter-inner.”

This simple ritual is etched deeply in my memory because it represents a value—a value that was passed down from my grandparents to my parents and to me:
Make time to connect with your family.

So many families today are missing out on that family connection. They seem more like busy people living together. One solution to this problem is for families to incorporate some simple rituals into their daily lives.

Rituals don’t have to be serious, solemn or centuries old to have an impact. They can be as simple as doing a group hug at the end of the day or saying goodbye to each other in a special way. Rituals are the glue that bonds us in our relationships. Here’s a simple definition of rituals:

Conscious acts that are repeated and meaningful to the participants.

Rituals serve three important purposes for children:

  1. Rituals give children a sense of identity
  2. Rituals provide comfort and security
  3. Rituals teach children values

Rituals are gifts of love you can give your grandchildren in the simplest of ways. All the special pet names you’ve given them add to their sense of identity. Every hug and greeting you shower them with contributes to their sense of security. And your very presence in their lives shows you value them. So pay attention to those simple rituals because they truly are the glue that bonds families together.


  1. says

    What you have to say about rituals is so true! I love the “first saccharin putter-inner” because it illustrates the organic nature of rituals. It’s okay to consciously adopt some rituals, but some of them arise organically, and sometimes those are the most meaningful. Also, some rituals will fade away, and that’s okay, too.