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Four Ways to Gift Connection

Give a gift you don't have to buy.

December is in full swing which means holiday cheer and stress have arrived! For parents of teens and emerging adults, there may be a new shift in how the holidays will be spent. Perhaps your teen or emerging adult is studying or working abroad, or has a friend or significant other they want to spend the holidays with instead. This topic is very personal to me as my own family is currently experiencing this shift now. My eldest child is in another country and my youngest is finishing up her senior year at college. Our holidays look different from the celebrations and traditions in the past.

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This shift can cause additional emotional stress that may be new to you and your family. Remember, making them feel guilty about creating new holiday traditions will not make them want to come home. We can, however, manage our thoughts and set intentions to help guide our families to create the loving and warm experiences we all want to enjoy this holiday season. Here are four tips parents can use to sustain their connections as their kids get older.

Begin with your mindset. We as parents create the blueprint for how our kids will think and feel about the holidays. When you envision the holiday you want, ask yourself: “how do I want to feel? How do I want my kids to feel? What can I do to create that mutual experience?” Think on what values you have shared with your kids and how that has shaped their holiday experiences. It’s also important to note what you should refrain from doing that prohibits creating the kind of holiday you want for yourself and your family. Re-evaluating and changing your expectations will help give you a chance to embrace and enjoy the shift. For example, if one or more of your children are not able to be home this year, instead of focusing on that change and loss, remind yourself that this year is an opportunity to create new traditions and memories, even if it is a scaled down version of years past. Sometimes less is more.

Set your intentions. What is your goal for this holiday season? It is important to be conscious and intentional about the aspects you do have control over. This year will be different. Controlling the controllables will help you manage some of the unwanted thoughts and feelings you’re experiencing, as well as some stress your kids may be feeling, too. As our family celebrates both Hanukkah and Christmas, we have always had the tradition of performing service on Christmas Day. My intent for this is to instill a sense of how meaningful volunteering is for all involved. As my children have grown, the impact that this experience has had on them has, I hope, laid a foundation for how they think about making a difference in the world.

Invest in what’s important. Ask your teens or emerging adults what is most important to them this holiday season. You have created your ideas about the holiday you want, but have you asked your family what part of the holidays matter most to them? What do they wish was different? My daughter just finished an exhausting semester at college. We sat down together to discuss what she wants this holiday season to look like. I want music and relaxation, and she also would prefer a slower pace, along with a change of scenery. We decided together to incorporate lots of comfy home time, decorating the tree and celebrating in a leisurely manner. Adding a weekend away with friends gives us something special to look forward to. Getting her input helps us all have a part in our new holiday traditions.

Ways to connect with your family. No matter which holidays you and your family choose to celebrate, think of ways to extend the meaning past material items. In what ways can you and your family give to others? How can you all perform acts of love and service while simultaneously creating memories and experiences together? What traditions can your family participate in that fulfill everyone’s holiday wishes?
● Creating a warm and welcoming home
● Preparing familiar foods
● Reading books, listening to music, or watching movies
● Playing games
● Looking at old photos
● Vacations or events together
● Serving a less-fortunate community
● Donating time to volunteering
● Spending meaningful time together

Creating new memories is a choice that we as parents can make just by focusing on what matters most - the connection with our children at every stage of their lives.

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