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Redefining Family Rituals

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Defines family and life stage rituals. Explores how rituals help families through transitions. Discuss how new rituals are needed for personal changes and for often overlooked non-traditional …

Defines family and life stage rituals. Explores how rituals help families through transitions. Discuss how new rituals are needed for personal changes and for often overlooked non-traditional families.


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  • 1. Creating Meaningful Rituals for New Life Cycle Transitions LeAnne Rozner John F. Kennedy University Graduate School of Professional Psychology PSY 5112 The Family Life Cycle Fall 2009
  • 2. What are your family rituals?
  • 3. Creating Rituals as Couples Bicultural couples need to negotiate meaningful rituals for their lives together.
  • 4. Gay and lesbian couples are often required to create their own rituals to mark a committed relationship.
  • 5. Life Cycle Transitions All individuals and families experience some normative life cycle transitions and participate in rituals that facilitate these transitions.
  • 6. New or novel life cycle transitions may not be marked by rituals or the standard rituals don’t fit the unique circumstances.
  • 7. Idiosyncratic Life Cycle Transitions o Familiar rituals do not exist. o Lack maps for changing relationships. o May not be recognized by community. o Both alike and unlike other life events.
  • 8. o Prejudice may result in stigma. o Families not acknowledged by community often stigmatized. o Stigmatized families may abandon familiar rituals. o Ritual abandonment prevents healing.
  • 9. Therapeutic Rituals Draw on elements of normative life cycle rituals to highlight similarities, while including new elements to affirm differences.
  • 10. Transition Rituals oMark transitions of specific family members. oFacilitate membership changes in the family. oAlter boundaries and make new relationships available.
  • 11. Healing Rituals Every culture has rituals to mark profound losses, deal with the grief of survivors, and facilitate ongoing life after such loss.
  • 12. Identity Redefinition Rituals oHelp remove labels and stigma and realign relationships. oIdiosyncratic transition may be re-acknowledged in a more positive manner.
  • 13. We always …..
  • 14. Creating Rituals as a Developmental Task for Couples • Because they come from different families of origin, members of a couple often encounter differences in the rituals of everyday life, such as meals, family traditions (such as birthdays or anniversaries), and holiday celebrations. • Many couples have multiple differences in religion, ethnicity, race, and social class. Bicultural couples need to negotiate meaningful rituals for their lives together. • Gay and lesbian couples are often required to create their own rituals to mark a committed relationship
  • 15. Contemporary Life Cycle Transitions • All individuals and families experience some normative life cycle transitions and participate in rituals that facilitate these transitions. • Many individuals and families are faced with life cycle transitions that are new or novel. They may not be marked by rituals or the standard rituals don’t fit their unique circumstances and need to be adapted. • Idiosyncratic life cycle transitions may include bicultural marriage; gay or lesbian marriage; families formed by adoption; families formed by new birth technologies; the birth or adoption of a child by an unmarried mother or father; pregnancy loss; living together relationships; the end of non-married relationships; foster placement and the reunion after foster placement; sudden, unexpected or violent death, including suicide; and chronic, incapacitating illness.
  • 16. Idiosyncratic Life Cycle Transitions 1. 2. 3. 4. Familiar, repetitive, and widely accepted rituals do not exist to facilitate these life changes and to link individual, family, and community. Require reworking of relationships, similar to normative life cycle transitions, but lack the available maps that accompany more expected transitions. These individual and family events may not be recognized by family of origin, larger systems, and the community. A balance of being both alike and unlike others is often difficult to achieve. Individuals may either deny the differences or maximize them and lose a sense of connectedness with others. For example: A family with a severely handicapped member shares many features with other families, however certain aspects are different from other families.
  • 17. Idiosyncratic Life Cycle Transitions 1. Familiar, widely accepted rituals do not exist to facilitate these life changes. 2. Lack the maps for reworking relationships that more expected transitions have available. 3. May not be recognized by family of origin and the community. 4. Difficult to achieve a balance of being both alike and unlike other life events.
  • 18. Idiosyncratic Life Cycle Transitions 5. 6. 7. Prejudice from the wider community may result in a sense of stigma. Stigma may lead to secrets and conspiracies of silence that constrain relationship possibilities. Families whose organization and membership are not affirmed by the wider culture, such as gay couples and their children, are often stigmatized by larger systems. The family may abandon familiar rituals that contribute to its sense of itself if they elicit painful memories. For instance, after the loss of a member through sudden death, hospitalization, or imprisonment, members may avoid family rituals. Families that are unable to accept members’ gay relationships or non-married heterosexual relationships may restrict participation in rituals. Ritual abandonment prevents healing and relationship development.
  • 19. Idiosyncratic Life Cycle Transitions 5. Prejudice may result in stigma which may lead to secrets that limit relationship possibilities. 6. Families who are not acknowledged by the wider culture are often stigmatized. 7. Stigmatized families may abandon familiar rituals if they elicit painful memories. Ritual abandonment prevents healing and relationship development.
  • 20. The Emergence of Symptoms • Family life cycle theorists have discovered that families who experience idiosyncratic life cycle events may be at risk for the development of symptoms in members. • Rigid and repetitive symptoms and interactions of family members in response to symptoms metaphorically express the family’s stuck position. • Idiosyncratic and hidden life cycle changes are often relevant to the emergence of symptoms.
  • 21. Therapeutic Rituals • Many clinicians have described the efficacy of therapeutic rituals in facilitating systemic change. • Rituals are intended to effect the behavioral, cognitive, and affective levels, and the family or individual tailor sthe ritual to particular and personal circumstances. • Rituals utilize symbols and symbolic actions that may have multiple meanings. • Therapeutic rituals draw on elements of normative life cycle rituals to highlight similarities, while including unusual elements that affirm differences. • There are three categories of rituals that are particularly beneficial for idiosyncratic life cycle events and processes: Transition rituals, Healing rituals, and Identity Redefinition rituals.
  • 22. Transition Rituals • Transition rituals mark and facilitate transitions of specific members and of membership in the family. • They alter boundaries and make new relationship options available. • The transitions in idiosyncratic life cycle events often have no rituals. The family may not have anticipated the transition and the resulting relationship changes.
  • 23. Healing Rituals • Every culture has rituals to mark profound losses, deal with the grief of survivors, and facilitate ongoing life after such loss. • Healing may also be necessary for losses sustained through the breakup of relationships, for the reconciliation of relationships after affairs, for unresolved grief when normative healing rituals have not occurred or have not succeeded, for losses of bodily parts and functions due to illness, and for the resulting loss of roles, life expectations, and dreams. • Therapeutic healing rituals are particularly useful when normative healing rituals do not exist or are not sufficient for the magnitude of the loss.
  • 24. Identity Redefinition Rituals • Identity redefinition rituals help remove labels and stigma from individuals, couples and families and often realign relationships between the family and larger systems. • This is especially necessary when a family or individual has been stigmatized by the larger systems. • An earlier idiosyncratic life cycle transition that went awry may be reacknowledged in a more positive manner. • New relationship options, previously unavailable because of the constraints of labels, are made available. • A balance of being both similar to others and different from others can be achieved.
  • 25. Conclusions • Idiosyncratic life cycle events and transitions pose particular difficulties for individuals and families. • Lacking available maps that fit their situation and without wider societal support and confirmation, idiosyncratic life cycle transitions may result in symptoms and a high level of distress and isolation. • Since rituals have the capacity to hold and express differences rather than homogenize them, they are particularly powerful resources for any life cycle transition that differs from the conventional. • Therapeutic rituals can facilitate adaptation to idiosyncratic life cycle transitions.
  • 26. What are your family rituals? • Family rituals and traditions are the special activities a family looks forward to doing together, over and over again. They are the things we do together as a family routinely such as meals, games, activities and even our chores. • They provide a sense of belonging and understanding that brings the family closer together. • They provide memories and strengthen familial bonds. • They provide a way to demonstrate the family’s values. • They provide stability, predictability and order. • They provide a sense of identity and belonging.
  • 27. We always … • • • • • • • • • • • • Prepare meals as a family Talk about the events of the day during meals Walk the dog together after dinner Greet each other with hugs and kisses Have pizza and game nights each week Do our chores on Saturday Have a special family dinner on Sunday Celebrate birthdays at a favorite restaurant Have a family pumpkin carving contest each fall Cut down our own Christmas tree and decorate it together Use Great-Grandma’s candlesticks during holiday celebrations Have family weddings at our family church or temple