Health & Well-being

Five ways to reconnect this Christmas

Parenting Place Christmas connection

Tis the season to be jolly... and for many families right now, that translates best as jolly tired. And stretched thin across multiple commitments and deadlines...

And then there’s all that lovely happy-families-enjoying-the-festive-season-together imagery to compare ourselves to, and with energy and inspiration at an all-time low, it can quickly become the season to be beating ourselves up about how un-jolly the vibe is at our place.

But wait, there is still the thrill of hope! The weary world rejoices. For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn... Sorry, Christmas carols get me every time – but they do prove a good point. Now is a perfect season to hit pause, to take a deep breath, to gather the whānau close, and just be.

But wait, there is still the thrill of hope! The weary world rejoices.

Disclaimer up front – none of the ideas that follow are revolutionary or ground-breaking. Rather than are small gestures that could speak volumes to family relationships that are feeling a little strained and drained. And they’re ideas that we’re trying in our homes, as we look forward to a rest these summer holidays, and some recovery time with our nearest and dearest.

So here we go – five ways to reconnect this Christmas.

1. Write a Christmas card for your kids

A lot goes unsaid in the busyness of life, but writing a personalised message to your child in a card could be such an encouragement – especially if their love language is words of affirmation. Note down some things you’re proud of about the way they’ve handled themselves this year. Be specific about the qualities you see in them and the things you love about who they are. Share a favourite memory from the year or speak life into an area you’ve seen them grow in. Pretty much just write a gushy and glorious love letter to your kid! Then post it to your own mailbox for extra thrill value, or attach it to one of their gifts for Christmas Day.

2. Take your kids on a one-on-one date

Think of the activity or treat that your child particularly likes, be it ice cream or sushi, ten pin bowling or mini golf (but probably not paint ball). Kids thrive on our focused attention, especially if their love language is quality time. Have a good long chat about their highlights of the year, the things they’re thinking about for next year, and the things they want to do in the holidays... fill their little cup with focus just on them.

3. Give something together

Kids love gifts – receiving them, yes, but also prepping and packaging up goodies for other people, especially if they’re working on the project with a parent or caregiver by their side. Bake a batch of shortbread or cookies together and make simple cards to delivery some Christmas cheer to the neighbours. Do a grocery shop where kids can choose items that other kids might like to eat and then donate them to the Salvation Army trolley after the checkout. For the animal lovers, maybe collect up some cans of pet food and deliver them to the SPCA. It’s a wonderful time of year to do something for others and you’re never too young to practise generosity.

Kids thrive on our focused attention, especially if their love language is quality time.

4. Create a holiday bucket list or ideas jar

Spend some time as a family brainstorming ideas for fun stuff to do in the holidays. List all the things you’d like to do and places you’re keen to visit, but never seem to have time for. Hand out paper and pens and ensure everyone gets to have their say. Some families have an ideas jar, where everyone has put in notes with activity suggestions that can later be pulled out at random when you’re looking for something to do.

5. Change up the routine

Do something new and different and a little bit left field! Have a breakfast picnic on the beach, take a walk to the dairy after dinner for dessert, stay up late to drive through some Christmas lights, invite another family over and challenge them to Christmas carol karaoke, spend all day making a gingerbread house... Doing something completely different, surprising and spontaneous creates magical memories for our children.

Having said that, I also need to say this – fellow parents, no pressure! This Christmas, connection trumps everything else. If lying on the trampoline with your kids and finding animals in the clouds is the only spontaneous memory-making moment you can muster energy for, then that sounds perfectly magical. (Who’d be crazy enough to attempt a gingerbread house from scratch anyway.)

Ellie Gwilliam

Ellie Gwilliam

Ellie Gwilliam is a passionate communicator, especially on topics relating to families. After 20 years in Auckland working mainly in publishing, Ellie now lives in Northland, with her husband and their three daughters, where she works from home as content editor for Parenting Place. Ellie writes with hope and humour, inspired by the goal of encouraging parents everywhere in the vital work they are doing raising our precious tamariki.

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