From Dr. Jane's Notebook
The fine art of holiday family get-togethers
and family gatherings can be wonderfully renewing or emotionally draining. One
way or the other, they are always a lot of work. Because people often have great
expectations for the holidays, it’s a good idea to think it out ahead of time.
Here are a few of my thoughts on the matter.
- Make specific
plans but remain flexible.
Family reunions need some amount of
organization, but try not to over-control things. Different age groups like
different amounts of activity. Some
folks like quieter and more sedentary activities, while others want to be
busy all the time. The key to keeping both groups happy is to make a list of
“possible” plans. Actually I suggest two lists. The first list should
include activities that require leaving the house such as restaurants, craft
fairs, religious events, or museums.
A second list should include activities which can be done at home, such as
outdoor games like Frisbee, indoor activities, cooking and clean-up squads.
Further suggestions are given below.
- Take time for
one-on-one conversations. Family
gatherings are important opportunities for communication.
Large group discussions are great times for sharing stories about
past holidays and re-telling family history. Children especially love these
moments. Then if you want to get to know your relatives in a more personal
way, be sure to take time for one-on-one conversations. Relationships tend
to grow when we take time for private moments and create the opportunity for
- Get to know
each other over again.
People change all of the time. Children grow, teenagers mature, and
adults become parts of couples or become single again. Some gain new
employment, others relocate and almost all of us develop new interests over
time. These accomplishments result in personality changes and personal
growth. Take time to learn new things about the members of your family, and
remember to share information about your own life. As friends and relatives,
we can take great pride in each other’s accomplishments so remember to
congratulate each other on your achievements. Usually there are no sweeter
compliments than those we hear from the people we are close to.
- Build upon
family strengths, not weaknesses.
Beware of relatives who thrive upon the misfortune of others! It is easy for
conversations to degenerate into hurtful gossip sessions which can scar your
family occasion. It is up to each one of us to stop negative conversations
in their tracks and redirect the discussion. Ideally, the holidays are times
to focus on the positive, not the negative. If a family feud already exists,
give thought to “burying the hatchet” and extend the hand of forgiveness to
someone with whom you’ve had a problem. Life is too short and family
relationships are too precious to be permanently scarred.
Now for the indoor
activities… In the effort to improve communication and playfulness this
holiday, I recommend that you assemble an arts and crafts table in the room
where people will gather after the meal. Nothing fancy; just regular paper,
construction paper, crayons and whatever office supplies you have around the
house. Then find out what happens when you casually invite people to use these
materials to make holiday cards, draw pictures, or just be creative. And if you
have more room, load up another table with a 500 piece jigsaw puzzle or games
like Scrabble or Monopoly. These activities have a way of bringing together
young and old and they provide new opportunities for family bonding. Getting the
crowd to communicate may be easier than you thought.
©Copyright, 2009, Jane R. Rosen-Grandon. All rights reserved.
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