Family reunions and family gatherings can be wonderfully invigorating or emotionally draining. One way or another, there is always a lot of work that goes into hosting the festivities. If you and your family will be playing host during the weeks ahead, give some thought to your goals for these occasions so that afterwards it feels worth the effort! Here are a few more 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, indoor games, cooking demonstrations and clean-up squads.
Take time for conversations. Family gatherings offer wonderful opportunities to communicate but some rules of etiquette should be followed. For example, when conversing in a group, it can be a lot of fun to remember past holidays and re-tell family stories so long as it does not cause another person pain or embarrassment. Family stories are especially meaningful to children. So if you’re talking about family history, beware that all kids on the premises are listening to every word you say and keep in mind that your words will never be forgotten. Also take time for one-on-one conversations. Relationships grow through personal conversations, cooperative shared activities, and bonding time.
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 should take great pride in each other’s accomplishments and remember to congratulate each other on these achievements
Build upon family strengths, not weaknesses. Ideally, our relatives are people we can count on to be supportive. But when this is not the case, beware of relatives who thrive upon the misfortune of others! If conversations degenerate into hurtful gossip sessions, it is up to each one of us to stop negative conversations in their tracks and redirect the discussion. Ideally, the holidays and all family occasions are times to focus on the positive, not the negative. So if you are part of a family feud, give thought to “burying the hatchet” and extend a hand of peace to someone with whom you’ve had the problem. Even if you do not feel you have done wrong, you can express your sorrow over the pain that exists between you. Life is too short and family relationships are too precious to be taken for granted.
Soon it will be next year and the holidays will have come and gone. How will you want to feel as you look back on these celebrations? Give thoughtful consideration to what you value most about the holidays and try to incorporate those ideals all along the way.
©Copyright, 2011, Jane R. Rosen-Grandon. All rights reserved.
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