Sharing is an important component of the holiday season, yet family traditions and time together can be more likely to thrive in an environment that embraces the growth and development of the family.


Sharing is an important component of the holiday season, yet family traditions and time together can be more likely to thrive in an environment that embraces the growth and development of the family.

A schedule that worked for families with young children isn’t likely to cut it with active teens and young adults who are starting their own families.

Suggesting a change in holiday routines may not spark holiday cheer, but doing so is important in nurturing the family and each of its members. For example, expecting adult children with young families to share their holiday with two, or more, sets of parents and grandparents and eat two, or more, holiday dinners in one day puts way too much pressure on the young family. It also may put pressure on everyone else who must adhere to a tight schedule to make it work.

Rethinking holiday plans and making some changes with respect for changes in the family can help to put the “happy” back into the holiday season.

Bringing up the topic can be touchy. Choose a time when family is relaxed and able to take time to consider options and opportunities.

Focus on what the family will gain, rather than lose. Encourage others to offer ideas in support of the holiday traditions that are most meaningful to them.

So much of what families do, or don’t do, during the holidays is based on family history.

Letting go of old ideas that no longer fit with the family’s structure or lifestyle may take some courage, but doing so can set the stage for happy days that help to build new memories and nurture the family as it is today.

Saying that isn’t the same as saying “let go of, or forget, the past.”

Cherish the good memories and good times, but be realistic: expecting your mother, who now is 85, to drum up the energy to prepare dinner for 20 or more, just like she’s done for years, places unrealistic expectations on her shoulders.

Mix it up a bit. Take turns hosting the meal, and make it a potluck. Enjoy the fellowship, but share the responsibility.

Rethinking and updating family plans as the family grows and changes can be beneficial for most, but especially important for families experiencing change, either through the loss of a spouse, partner or other loved one, illness, military deployment, divorce or separation.

Be flexible. Being together and supporting each other through good times and bad is far more important than having a fixed schedule without consideration for the family its meant to nurture.

Susan M. Jackson is the Harvey County Extension agent, family and consumer sciences and community development.