Ready or not, ‘Tis the season for family, food and fellowship! For some families, this is a celebratory time to take a break and connect with loved ones. But for many, it is a stressful occasion full of competing emotions, travel schedules, hosting duties, holiday expenses, disrupted routines, unresolved conflict and misaligned expectations. These stressors can provoke anxiety and depression, thus turning a wonderful season into a woeful one.
Every member of a family has their own stress points and coping strategies, but the need for support is universal. Working together as a family to support each other through any trial and tribulations brought on by the holiday season can ease stress and facilitate connection. Below are five strategies for navigating the holiday season as a family.
1. Set a family Intention for your time together.
Intentions provide direction, purpose and motivation. By setting an intention as a family, you are already bonding over your shared focus for your time together even before it begins!
To set a family intention, ask each member of the family one word to describe what he or she would like the day to be like. These can be words like happy, fun, peaceful, relaxing, etc. Put your words together and finish this sentence, “Today, we are going to have a (word 1), (word 2), (word 3), (word 4) day!
2. Create a Safe Space.
Often, when we feel stressed, it’s a good idea to take a break from the chaos. As a family, designate a safe space that can be utilized for a little quiet time, if needed. This can be a specific room in the house, chair on the porch or even the car (if you are traveling). Make sure each member of the family understands where the safe space is, what it is for and who to notify if he or she needs to take a break.
3. Implement a “Blackout.”
Though phones, iPads and computers are prevalent in our culture today, too much screen time can induce depression, anxiety, isolation, and low self-esteem. These obstacles can increase stress and impact the families’ ability to connect. To help facilitate quality time, consider a device “blackout” time. This is a dedicated block of time without any electronic devices present. This could be over meal times, while playing games, family movie night, etc.
To designate a “blackout,” talk with your family about what times of the day they want to have device free time together. When that time arrives, place a basket in the room where members can place their devices for the allotted time. When the time is up, everyone can reclaim his or her electronics.
4. Practice Gratitude.
Practicing gratitude increases physical and psychological health, as well as, overall happiness. In short, when we focus on the things that make us feel good, it is harder to focus on the things that make us feel bad. And even better, talking gratitude is easy, free and a great group activity! Here are some ideas for practicing gratitude as a family:
- On the way to a holiday gathering, have each person in the car list three things they are grateful for
- Turn it into a game: Every time someone says a “special” word (example: turkey or Santa) each member has to say something they are grateful for
- Before opening a gift, the present opener must first say one thing they are grateful for
- At meal times, take turns going around the table sharing one thing each person is grateful for
- At bedtime, each person lists three things they are grateful for from that day
5. Play Together
Play is the antithesis of stress. It promotes connection, healing, resilience, trust, safety and vitality. So get the whole family together and try something new!