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Challenge: Gratitude & Giving

5 Ways to Foster Family Connection this Holiday Season

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Holiday seasons can be joyous, filled with family and laughter and abundant food. It can also be a stressful time, with competing priorities and responsibilities pulling for our time and attention—not to mention, travel.

Growing up in rural Maryland, Sunday mornings were a dance party in our house. My dad would blast Diana Ross and the Supremes, and my sister and I would dress up and dance on the fireplace with a microphone in hand. Friends loved spending the night on Saturdays because it meant a Sunday morning dance party and breakfast at the Potler’s. It became our sacred tradition.

Historically, traditions and routines have provided a sense of normalcy, making life feel manageable. But—because of the pandemic, this year has been anything but traditional. Since March there has been a lot of buzz about the importance of rituals, and studies show the importance of rituals for improving performance, family ties, and emotional wellbeing. While many people have adapted, a new set of challenges remain.

This year we will experience family traditions in a different way. As a result, I’m thinking a lot about what structures we can put in place for celebration, for sharing, and for support . Whether you plan on socially distancing with extended family or celebrating with those in your immediate household—having a plan will be helpful.

Here are five ways families can foster connection this holiday season.

Set intentions. First things first -- bid adieu to the stress of the week or past few weeks. Find a way to detach from the week’s woes, and instead reflect on the highlights. Individually, write down three intentions you have, or commitments that you can offer during the time shared with family.

Practice gratitude. Share one thing you are grateful for in this moment, or something that you are grateful for this year. Also acknowledge one thing you wish to let go of, and one thing you wish to invite in. The act of letting go and focusing on where to spend your energy will allow you to show up more fully for family and friends.

Reflect on what you’re proud of. There’s a lot that we each live and build that we don’t get the opportunity to share with family and friends, or even coworkers. Take a moment to pat yourself on the back and acknowledge what you’re most proud of this year. Then, celebrate and lift each other up.

Share appreciations publicly. By publicly sharing what we appreciate about one another, we foster communal positivity and respect. Allow each person to bask in the compliments they receive, and share something they appreciate about someone else around the table.

Take tech breaks. Perhaps the most important tip is to make sure your family takes tech breaks. COVID-19 has undoubtedly increased our reliance on technology, and it has become all too easy to be disengaged—particularly when your home is doubling as your office. We try not to use technology on Saturday. It's a grounding ritual that brings us closer as a family. Instead, we play together every morning, and weekends are anchored by spending time outdoors.

As we continue to work through the challenges COVID-19 have brought into our lives, I’ve done my best to reframe this time as an opportunity for forming even deeper connections with my family, and focus on what I can do to strengthen my family's social and emotional wellbeing. I'm learning that in building family rituals, being together is what matters. The world is changing, and we must evolve with it. Change is undoubtedly easier when we’re in it together.

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