From Dr. Jane's Notebook
The fine art of family reunions
Family reunions and family gatherings can be
wonderfully renewing or emotionally draining. One way or the other, they are
always a lot of work. Because people often have great expectations for the
holidays, it’s a good idea to think it out ahead of time. Here are a few of my
thoughts on the matter.
- Make specific plans but remain flexible. Family
reunions need some amount of organization, but try not to over-control things.
Different age groups like different amounts of activity. Some folks like
quieter and more sedentary activities, while others want to be busy all the
time. The key to keeping both groups happy is to make a list of “possible”
plans. Actually I suggest two lists. The first list should include activities
that require leaving the house such as restaurants, craft fairs, religious
events, or museums. A second list should include activities which can be done
at home, such as outdoor games like Frisbee, indoor activities, cooking and
clean-up squads. Further suggestions are given below.
- Take time for one-on-one conversations. Family
gatherings are important opportunities for communication. Large group
discussions are great times for sharing stories about past holidays and
re-telling family history. Children especially love these moments. Then if you
want to get to know your relatives in a more personal way, be sure to take
time for one-on-one conversations. Relationships tend to grow when we take
time for private moments and create the opportunity for heart-to-heart
- Get to know each other over again. People change
all of the time. Children grow, teenagers mature, and adults become parts of
couples or become single again. Some gain new employment, others relocate and
almost all of us develop new interests over time. These accomplishments result
in personality changes and personal growth. Take time to learn new things
about the members of your family, and remember to share information about your
own life. As friends and relatives, we can take great pride in each other’s
accomplishments so remember to congratulate each other on your achievements.
Usually there are no sweeter compliments than those we hear from the people we
are close to.
- Build upon family strengths, not weaknesses.
Beware of relatives who thrive upon the misfortune of others! It is easy for
conversations to degenerate into hurtful gossip sessions which can scar your
family occasion. It is up to each one of us to stop negative conversations in
their tracks and redirect the discussion. Ideally, the holidays are times to
focus on the positive, not the negative. If a family feud already exists, give
thought to “burying the hatchet” and extend the hand of forgiveness to someone
with whom you’ve had a problem. Life is too short and family relationships are
too precious to be permanently scarred.
Now for the indoor activities… In the effort
to improve communication and playfulness this holiday, I recommend that
you assemble an arts and crafts table in the room where people will gather after
the meal. Nothing fancy; just regular paper, construction paper, crayons and
whatever office supplies you have around the house. Then find out what happens
when you casually invite people to use these materials to make holiday cards,
draw pictures, or just be creative. And if you have more room, load up another
table with a 500 piece jigsaw puzzle or games like Scrabble or Monopoly. These
activities have a way of bringing together young and old and they provide new
opportunities for family bonding. Getting the crowd to communicate may be easier
than you thought. If you happen to try any of these suggestions and want to
share your results, I’d love to hear from you at
Best wishes to all for the holiday season!
©Copyright, 2007, Jane R. Rosen-Grandon. All rights reserved.
Return to Family Relationships
Return to Table of Contents