The holidays can be hectic. People are dashing from store to store to find the right gifts, sending Christmas cards to relatives and friends, and gearing up for the end of another year. Somewhere in between all of the busyness of the holidays, it’s important to find time to spend with your family and loved ones.
There are many inexpensive, yet meaningful activities to do with your family during the holidays. Sallie Hooker, a regional Extension agent with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, who specializes in Family and Consumer Sciences and Family and Child Development and Shannon Kish, a regional Extension agent in Family and Child Development, offer their insight on options of family bonding time and the benefits and consequences of not setting aside that time.
Hooker describes family bonding time as “the time a family spends together meaningfully. This is the designated time a family plans to interact with each other doing meaningful group activities or a fun project.”
Kish explains that the holidays are about spending time together as a family.
“The importance is spending time together with each other, not on spending a lot of money doing things,” Kish says. “Holiday traditions are a great way for families to connect and spend time together.”
There are many options for bonding through holiday activities. Hooker and Kish suggest caroling, serving at a soup kitchen, making Christmas cards, making homemade gifts or decorations, visiting nursing homes, picking out and decorating the family tree, enjoying hot chocolate and smores by the fire or fireplace, baking and decorating cookies, watching holidays movies or attending worship services as a family.
“Find something your family enjoys doing together and make it a tradition,” Kish says.
“Family bonding time is a great way to model expected behaviors,” Hooker says. “Family members learn to value each other and as a result, are less likely to hurt each other.”
Having a strong bond with one’s children and family creates a feeling of unity and safety. It is important to do all you can to create a feeling of unity and safety.
The article “Community Context, Social Integration Into Family, and Youth Violence” from The Journal of Marriage and Family states that the benefits of family bonding include greater emotional bond to family members, children are able to see love and affection displayed in a healthy way, children have better academic performance, children experience fewer behavioral problems and children are at a lower risk of substance abuse.
“The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that family relationships provide children with a critical sense of being valued and with a vital network of historical linkages and social support,” says Kish. “The family unit is vital to helping children develop positive interpersonal relationship and instills discipline and internalized codes of conduct.”
By not setting aside time for family bonding, your family could face consequences such as poor family relationships, feelings of being unloved, unsafe, insignificant or unimportant. Hooker warns that these feelings will carry over to subsequent generations and new households as these children become adults and start their own families.
“If these bonds are not developed, there can be serious health and development complications,” Kish says.
Hooker suggests that families set aside time for family bonding throughout the year. Kish says bonding can be created around other events and become routine. At least one day or night a week should be set aside for family time.
“Year around bonding makes it easier during the holidays when parents are encouraging their children to volunteer and share with others,” Hooker says. “For example, if parents have instilled in their children the importance of giving rather than receiving, then they will be receptive to ringing the Salvation Army bell at Christmas or collecting and taking donations to the less fortunate at Thanksgiving and Christmas.”
There are plenty of options for year-around family bonding such as eating meals together, having game nights, attending a sports game or participating in an activity together such as bowling or seeing a movie.
“Eating a family meal together promotes good eating habits as well as gives the family members time to share their day,” Hooker says. “Creating a family night where the entire family participates is an excellent way of bonding.”
Hooker also suggests participating in children’s extracurricular activities. Praising them for their participation is an excellent way to help build their confidence as well strengthen the bond. Reading to children daily is recommended and is an excellent way to bond.
The holidays are a great time to bond, but it’s important to keep the tradition going throughout the year.
“Make as many opportunities as possible for family time together,” Hooker says.