The holiday season is like an anchor for families. Busy loved ones, tossed here and there by jam-packed schedules, stop for a bit to spend more time together. It’s natural. Coming back to the things and the people who matter most are what the holidays are all about. But when we get into rhythms and routines in our family time, we’re don’t always think creatively about bringing our families closer together as a unit.

Don’t we all hope for more love, more support, more trust, more growth and more happy memories? Well, we’ve got some ideas for you, whether you’ve got lots of family time planned or will be far away from loved ones. Here we go:

Graciously Accept Criticism

It’s quite possible that a hard conversation, or even just a surprising critique, will figure into your family time. And though it might not seem like it, these sorts of potential confrontations can actually pull your family closer together. Let’s think about it …

How close can you feel to someone you know you can’t be honest with? Not very. Walking on eggshells and letting problems fester is no fun. On the flip side, have you ever told someone a hard-to-say thing and then waited, cringing, for their response … only to find them calm, receptive and even thankful for what you’ve said? It’s an amazing feeling. And you can be the one to cultivate that feeling in your family – all with your responses.

The next time a family member tells you something hard to hear, follow these steps:

– take a silent pause

– register what they’ve said

– tell yourself that it’s possible (and worth considering) that that thing is true

– maybe even repeat back what you’ve heard to clarify

– and then thank them for caring enough about you to be real with you

Goof Off a Little

Laughing breaks tension. Being playful brings out fun facets of your personality. Fold more fun into your family time this holiday season. Here are some ways to do it:

– play a game of Pictionary or Charades or Balderdash

– build a blanket fort, get some candy bars and popcorn and watch a funny movie together

– head to an indoor trampoline park and bounce around

– go karaoke-ing

– draw portraits of one another

– play twister: bonus points for filling each circle with that color of finger paint!

Play Therapist

It’s easy for our day-to-day conversations to reach a certain depth and stay there. We talk about work, but not fulfillment. We vent about what’s annoying us, but not about how we’re dealing with it. This holiday season, challenge yourself to go deeper with your family members. Create space for them to let you know how they’re really doing. Take a page from therapists’ book and work open-ended questions like these into your conversations:

– How do you feel / did you feel about ______________?

– What’s been going well lately?

– If you could snap your fingers and instantly change one thing, what would it be?

– What are you looking forward to?

– Is there anything you need help with?

– What would you do if you had way more free time?

And lastly, though not a question, “Tell me more …” is always a good one.

Don’t Be So Quick to Clear the Table

I know, I know. We’re all busy. Gotta get to the Netflix comedy special or that bit of work you didn’t finish during the day. But that time around the table after dinner is golden. Don’t jump up to load the dishwasher just yet, linger a little, tell a joke or go around the table hearing the best and worst parts of each person’s day.

Make Your Family the Special Guests

When “company” comes over, we rush to clean the living room, buy fresh flowers for the table and plan a special meal. We think about what would make them feel welcome and go out of our way to create an awesome environment. Why not take that same approach with your own family? The ones you see all the time. The ones whose dishes are piling up in the sink right now. *wink*

Imagine that each member of your family is an out-of-town guest! Plan to sneak special, considerate touches into your time together. Bake their favorite dessert. Change their bedsheets. Buy them the thing they love that they’re just about to run out of. Tidy up the thing you’re waiting for them to clean. Leave a happy note and a little, just-because gift on their pillow. Welcome them home like you haven’t seen them in years.


Enjoy your time together with family this holiday season


Leave a Reply