Home for the Holidays: Practical Advice for Connecting with Your Children
By Katelyn Bolte, MA, LPC
Licensed Professional Counselor
2021 – A year of more uncertainty and protocols. For some of us, the Christmas season may bring a welcome relief and a reason to celebrate. Others may see this season as a time of sadness, loneliness and may even be afraid.
No matter how you feel this Christmas, it’s important to communicate with your family so you can understand everyone’s perspectives. Are there strategies can you use during the holiday season to navigate uncertainties you and your family may be facing? My team has worked with many children, teens, and families in the past two years as they navigate some of the biggest mental health challenges. Here are some strategies we know are effective for connecting with your loved ones this Christmas:
Take Time to Connect: In a year where we’ve spent more time than usual under the same roof with members of our household, it may feel like more family time is the opposite of what we need. Look to increase the quality of your family time by intentionally creating opportunities to check in with each family member. Connecting with your children will look different depending on their age: Color a picture with your toddler. Take time to learn about your seven-year-old’s Minecraft world. Listen to your teenager’s Spotify playlist with them.
Meeting your child in their world to play each and every day can increase your child’s feelings of value while reinforcing that you are a person who cares deeply about them.
Give Your Child a Voice: A desire for control often occurs when things are unpredictable. In a year when so much has been unpredictable, children and teens can benefit from being given the power of decision making. Try this: Frame this time as special and unique. Then ask your children what they would like to do this holiday season.
“Would you like to have a movie night or a game night on Saturday?”
“Which Christmas cookie would you like to bake?”
Allowing your children the opportunity to practice this skill relieves the burden from parents to make every decision and empowers children as they recognize the impact that they can have on their family.
Make Space for Emotions: Day-to-day living has looked different this year, and for many the holidays will as well. We might feel sad, anxious, or angry right now. Our children might feel sad, anxious, or angry right now. Acknowledging the emotions that we are all feeling allows us to truly experience them. This can involve naming the emotion we’re feeling, identifying where this emotion may be coming from, and practicing acceptance.
“I’m sad we can’t visit with grandma this year too.”
“It makes sense that you feel lonely since you can’t see your friends every day.”
Allow time in your days to experience these emotions.
Practice Gratitude: In times of change, gratitude may feel more difficult to practice; however, the benefits of gratitude far outweigh the difficulties one may experience in identifying a gratitude list. Gratitude promotes mental health, reduces stress, and provides opportunities to connect with our loved ones.
Are you finding it difficult to identify things for your gratitude list? Try catching yourself when you do experience feeling a positive emotion, and be thankful in that moment. Slow down your meals and take time to taste the food that you are consuming. Or consider the activities that you engaged in today and recognize if you enjoyed one. Then be thankful for it.
Focus on the Truth: While much has changed in the past 2 years, one thing has not. Christians know that the love of our Creator and Father remains the same yesterday, today, and forever. We can find peace and comfort in acknowledging the love of our unchanging God. Re-anchor yourself in God’s truth, particularly in the truth of this Christmas season. Our loving God sent his Son to earth to give us ultimate peace. May you be blessed by this peace now, and when you need it most.
More helpful resources
Do you know someone who would benefit by learning more? Our 2-part webinar series: Help for Struggling Teens may provide some solutions.
Part 1 – Help for Struggling Teens: Recognize the Need and Know Your Options
Part 2 – Help for Struggling Teens: Support for Parents
Katelyn Bolte (MA, LPC) is the Child and Adolescent Services Program Manager at the Christian Family Solutions clinic in Mankato, MN.