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15 Ways to Build Family Closeness This Holiday Season

Don’t let the pressure of Hallmark’s cheery, over-the-top and in-your-face holiday campaigns fool you. For many, this time of year can take even MORE work to pull off a successful season ahead. With increased stress to get along with family members, pick the most well thought-out gift and keep holiday cheer at a maximum, it’s no wonder that some families crash and burn each time.

Families have great success when they plan ahead and keep expectations realistic. Before you find yourself snapping at your significant other for forgetting the extra garland for the tree or yelling at your toddler for refusing to wear the Santa hat for the school play, put things into perspective and take each moment in stride. With these helpful tips, your family can stay close and connected this holiday season.

  1. Talk about family expectations. What happened last year that you might want to repeat/don’t want to repeat this year? How would each family member like to spend the holiday? What events are forthcoming with school, friends, work, etc. that you should all be aware of?
  2. Have each family member keep a daily gratitude journal of one thing they love and appreciate about each other.
  3. Have a weekly “state of the union” meeting where you check in on what worked well the past week and what you would like to do differently for the week ahead.
  4. Get up earlier in the morning if need be to spend some quality time together and ask each person, “What can I do for you today?”
  5. It’s about quality, not quantity. Spend 15 minutes at the end of the day connecting. Whether over a take-out family meal from Boston Market because nobody has time to cook or a designated cookie baking activity, make sure that you stay present, mindful and engaged with one another.
  6. Put your cell phones away during meals.
  7. Designate a family game night and bring out the old board game classics: Candyland, Twister or Monopoly to name a few.
  8. Make a concerted effort to have a “date night” with each member of the family: daddy/daughter night, mom/son day, husband/wife getaway, etc.
  9. Volunteer your time as a family to help others in need who may be less fortunate.
  10. Stick with a holiday/gift budget. Plan ahead and make sure that you don’t overspend.
  11. Think of others and give generously. Invite a friend who lives alone to Christmas dinner or bring a warm meal to a single mom.
  12. Practice forgiveness and let go of grudges. If you fight with a loved one, let your ego and pride go and be the first to say, “I’m sorry.”
  13. Spend some time alone to recharge. Listen to music, go for a run, read a good book. Healthy, individual habits benefit the entire family.
  14. Indulge one another. You might not want to listen to Chipmunk’s Jingle Bells one more time, but the smile that it puts on your child’s face should make it worth it. You might not agree with having to include your in-laws in some of the holiday planning, but are you causing more stress and strain on your marriage by your unwillingness to include them?
  15. Keep each other in check and remember what the holidays are all about. Creating positive memories should be at the forefront of every family member’s mind.

Having a fool-proof holiday season doesn’t come naturally to most but if you put in the time and energy to make your family a priority, you’ll find that you have less time for fighting and selfish agendas.

Some families like to participate in family counseling to set expectations, improve communication and work on family resentments that may have built up over time. For more information, contact a family therapist today.

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