Creating family traditions during the holiday season For most of us, holidays are steeped with rituals that define who we are as a family and bring us together. Take a moment to consider your holiday traditions. Which ones bring true meaning and joy and which feel like you are doing them simply to go through the motions? Consider introducing some fresh ideas to spruce up your celebrations this year. It doesn’t matter how big or small, traditions help ground us as a family, and bring comfort and joy.

Include the kids in creating traditions

Set up a family meeting prior to the holidays to discuss how each member would like to see things carried out. When deciding which traditions to keep and which to toss, consider these questions: Are your current rituals working for both you and your kids? Is obligation or commercialism defining how you spend your holidays? What values and ideas do you want to honor within your family? Keep the established things that work and add new activities for spice. Figure out how to get everyone’s top wishes and negotiate the rest.

Avoiding common mistakes

Changing traditions brought in from our family-of-origin can bring up feelings of loss. Some relatives won’t understand and may pressure you to conform to the old ways. If that happens, let your relatives know up front that you care about their feelings and will honor some of their wishes, but that it’s important for you to establish your own traditions with your spouse and kids. Going along with something just because it’s the way it has always been can create resentments.

Holidays are supposed to be fun, but people often feel stressed-out around the holidays, mostly because they fear they’ll let someone down or that their holiday won’t match some perfect image. Holidays also are challenging when there has been a divorce or death in the family. While switching gears after a loss is hard, it’s also a chance to reinvent the holidays. When making new traditions, ease into it by incorporating pieces of the old traditions. Be flexible, and try to make plans based on what brings joy rather than what’s expected.

Make a ritual of giving

Giving is never more on our minds than during the holiday season. It is a time when families and friends come together to share not only gifts, but also themselves with each other. Kids may be focused on their Santa wish list, but don’t be fooled. They are also soaking in the magic of the season—the joy and satisfaction that comes from giving to others. Make traditions around giving. Maybe that means baking cookies for friends, helping to hang Christmas lights for an elderly person in the neighborhood, or volunteering at a food bank or local shelter.

Giving is an important part of life. When we give, we feel good. We are social creatures by nature. If someone appreciates us, we feel joy. Giving improves self-esteem and self-image. All kids get in trouble or do something wrong at times, and they may harbor feelings of being bad at some level. But when they give or are kind, they gain some of that back. It helps them think, ‘I am a good person after all.’ When we feel good about ourselves we want to share that goodness with others. And that’s a feeling we want our kids to have all year long—not just during the holiday season!