While growing up my family had all kinds of little rituals that, even as a child, I knew were completely unique to my family. Each night before bed, regardless of where we were in the house, once my sister and I were tucked in we would all shout loudly to one another “NIGHT, LOVE YOU, SEE YOU IN THE MORNING!” It became such an important ritual to my sister and I that it would have been unthinkable to try and go to sleep without hearing my parents say those magic words of night time protection. Throughout my childhood, my dad would yell at the top of his lungs “JANA…NICHOLE…FRONT AND CENTER!” In another home those might have been frightening words, but we knew exactly what it meant. We would drop whatever we were doing and come running at full speed to stand in front of my dad with anticipation. Sometimes it was a treat he bought us on the way home, sometimes it was money to go to the store and sometimes it was a surprise or good news to tell us. When we heard those words, we knew that it was going to be good!
We all have small rituals that get us through our day; morning coffee, kiss the kids goodbye, our route to work. These things are like touch stones and once they become ingrained in our day, they become essential to our flow. If I miss a step, or something goes wrong, if I sleep through my alarm for example, it throws my whole day off kilter and sometimes it’s impossible to get it feeling back on track for the rest of the day.
In building our relationships with the people we support, it’s important to remember how unpredictable and chaotic their lives can be and that (to them) we are just another stranger in a long line of strangers that are thrust into their lives. They don’t always have the ability, the insight or even the control to build into their day the small rituals that we all have that keep us emotionally and mentally on track. One of the things I have worked really hard at is creating unique and personalized dialogues with people that I support; inside jokes or small rituals that we do every single time we are together. Whether it’s a song we sing, a running joke that gets repeated at the same time every day or a ritual of sitting together and sipping coffee in silence, you can intentionally build these rituals into your relationship that are unique to just the two of you. By doing so, you set yourself apart in some way from the dozens of care workers that have come before you and create a new and special bond that begins to become a foundation for the friendship that may come with time. Even more important, you will give the person you serve the gift of creating a touchstone for them in their day. Something that they can count on to happen and that brings a feeling of safety and security and something that they will inevitably begin to associate with you.
When things get scary in life and when our world begins to fall apart, there are people, places and things that we count on to hold on to, to remind us of who we are. To this day, if I crash at my parents house, you will hear us yelling from room to room, just before we fall off to sleep, “NIGHT, LOVE YOU, SEE YOU IN THE MORNING!”
– Nichole Gooding, Team Leader