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 and develop a plan. 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. Typical outdoor activities include frisbee, football, or nature walks. Indoor activities include arts & crafts, puzzles, games and clean-up squads. See more about that below.
Take time for one-on-one conversations. Family gatherings are important opportunities to communicate. Large group discussions are great times to talk about past holidays and re-tell family stories. Children especially love learning about family history. Take time for one-on-one conversations to tell them “your story” and listen to theirs. Relationships grow through private moments and shared experiences.
Get to know each other over again. People change all of the time. Children grow, teenagers mature, and adults become parts of couples or single again. Some gain new employment, others relocate and almost all of us develop new interests over time. 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. Its important to congratulate each other on 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. 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. Both parties can save face and you can agree to disagree. Life is too short and family relationships are too precious to be permanently broken.
If set up correctly, indoor activities can bring family members of all ages together and create an atmosphere of playfulness. After the meal, turn your dining room table into a space for arts & crafts, a 500 piece jigsaw puzzle, and board games like Scrabble or Monopoly. Arts & crafts materials can be as simple as a stack of construction paper, crayons and markers with a sign that invites people to make holiday cards, draw pictures, or just be creative. Shared indoor activities have a way of bringing together young and old to create stronger family bonds and new memories.
©Copyright, 2012, Jane R. Rosen-Grandon. All rights reserved.
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