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Mommy Monday: Rituals and the Caregiver-Child Bond

by Kimberly on April 29, 2013 · 11 comments

A fellow graduate music therapy student recently defended her master’s thesis. The defense itself was amazing, but what was even more amazing was her research—a heuristic, grounded theory study that explored how community-based music groups support bonding and attachment in adoptive families. Her research is worth a blog series and more . . . but, alas, it is not my information to share 🙂

Given, though, that my primary research interest of emotion regulation development is heavily influenced by the attachment process, my friend and I have had a couple of interesting intellectual conversations. One in particular stands out, primarily because of how it resonated with me not only as a professional, but as a parent, too.

The concept relates to the attachment process between a caregiver and a child, which relies strongly on the bonding that occurs between those individuals. And according to my friend, the literature on bonding speaks to the importance of rituals in creating that bonded relationship.

Rituals. When I first heard this, it felt simultaneously strange and intuitive. Strange because I had considered rituals to be this structured and organized phenomenon that’s often tied to a larger community group (e.g. church). Yet it was intuitive and familiar, too. I thought of all the tiny, daily, familiar rituals my children and I have. Some occur within our household routines, especially those related to transitions to and from bedtime, school/work, and eating. Other rituals are regular, daily, loving verbal banters that occur between my children and me. All these rituals seem to work in part to define who we are as a family.

Then I thought of what I knew as a music therapist, especially in my work with children with a history of complex trauma. One importance aspect of their milieu experience is to have structure in their lives. These occur on house rituals, i.e. what you do when you wake up, go to breakfast, go to school, eat lunch, play after school, have dinner, and go to bed. Then there are the scheduling rituals, what you do on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, weekends. These rituals and this structure are important as the familiarity they create provides a safety net for these children to learn and heal.

In short, then, following my initial surprise, I see how rituals are a cornerstone of the bonding and attachment process. Have you experienced the same?

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Christian May 12, 2013 at 8:08 am

I believe that rituals are important for structure. There are many times when our “routine” at home is thrown off by something, and there is a definite change in my children’s behavior. I see it as well if they stay the night at someone else’s house. It’s almost a relief for them to be back home where they know what to expect.
Christian´s last blog post ..What Is The Cause Of Tinnitus?

Kimberly May 14, 2013 at 8:26 am

I completely agree, Christian. And it’s the structure aspect that helps contribute to bonding. Interesting, huh? ~Kimberly

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independent living June 16, 2017 at 12:07 am

For me rituals are just done by quack doctors and also when you’re gonna poop. Just put in mind all the things thats needs to be done and everythings gonna be ok.
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care homes June 24, 2017 at 5:18 am

Rituals are good. But for the others? We just can’t force them to do the same thing.
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Australian home care July 10, 2017 at 2:30 pm

Rituals? I can’t think of what to say. It’s just too deep to express.

home care July 11, 2017 at 7:43 am

I don’t have rituals. I guess it works for somebody.
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caregiver resources July 19, 2017 at 10:27 pm

Rituals is ok but you just have to stick on what you’ve just just planned to do for the day.
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