Q. Throughout the Christmas holidays we visit relatives on both sides of our family. How can we make this a meaningful time rather than one of duty, tension or superficial talk? How can we connect meaningfully with our family at Christmas?
A. The holidays are an excellent time to enjoy and deepen family relationships – to connect with family members. Many of us will see extended family members we don’t see during the rest of the year. We reconnect with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins from our family and our spouse’s family.
In order to change or deepen family connections, be intentional about it. Make a conscious decision to connect with relatives in a new way. This may feel risky but can be very rewarding. Include your spouse and children in your plans. Refresh everyone’s memory about the relatives you will visit, including their names and how you’re related. When relatives are seen infrequently children often don’t remember or understand who they are.
To help your children connect with family members prepare them ahead of time. Describe to your children the background of family relationships and some of the unique experiences of your relatives. Tell your children, for instance, about why Aunt Mary is a special aunt to you or how Uncle Harry injured his leg in the service. This will help your children know your family members and will make seeing these relatives more interesting to them.
Encourage each child to think of something they want to tell about themselves to Aunt Mary or Grandpa Smith or to all the relatives. Think also about what you want to communicate to specific family members. There may be someone who holds hard feelings against you. Think of what you might say to bridge the rift between you.
One way to connect with family members more deeply is to show caring by greeting each relative with warmth and hugs. Be affectionate even if your family is not. One relative being affectionate gives permission to others to connect in this way. Smiles and positive comments also help.
Make use of individual time with family members. Play a new game with a nephew or niece. Help Grandmother in the kitchen or go for a walk with Uncle Charlie. Individual time can be difficult in a large family group at Christmas, but even a few minutes of individual time will help you connect.
If you’re hosting Christmas you can suggest at dinner that each person tell about the highlight of their year or about their happiest or most meaningful experience in 2012. This takes the conversation off of superficial chatter and will make it interesting for young and old alike and it certainly will enhance family connections.
Don’t expect the holiday to be perfect. Just stay focused on what is good about the family relationships and give of yourself lovingly to enjoying each person. I hope these ideas help your family connect in new ways.
During this season of Love and Peace let’s all break down the barriers that distance us or even alienate us from each other. Let’s reach out with love to all.
“Love each other with genuine affection and take delight in honoring each other.”
Romans 12:10 NLT