In our last blog posting on Friday, we shared a list of fun, inexpensive ways to connect with your family and friends over the holidays and discussed the importance of creating your own rituals of connection. Today on The Gottman Relationship Blog, we’d like to give you a little more food for thought!

We begin with the obvious: engineering a holiday celebration that will make everybody in your family happy can be exhausting.

In an atmosphere filled with stress, in fierce pursuit of some unattainable vision of perfection, it’s all too easy to lose all sense of meaning – to feel like you are trying very, very hard but still ending up going through the motions. This year, we recommend that you try this:

Think of the holidays as a chance to celebrate whatever makes your family unique. Think about your shared philosophies, values, sense of humor – and what kinds of rituals might further your identity as a family!

In his celebrated book The Relationship Cure, Dr. Gottman shares this advice:

Create holiday rituals that express your family’s own unique likes and dislikes. This adds to children’s sense that participation in the celebration strengthens their ties to the clan. (“Our family thinks having a dead tree in our house at Christmas is a dumb idea. We buy a live one in a pot, decorate it, and then plant it later on.” “Our family loves animals. We always go to the zoo at Passover time and see the new babies.”) Some families create rituals around their own idiosyncratic holidays – an annual drive to the country in the fall to view the autumn color, for example, or a trip to the ocean at summer solstice.

So take a look at your own family traditions this year. Dr. Gottman suggests that you “weed out those that make you feel harried, worried, or put upon… and cling instead to those rituals that leave family members feeling peaceful, emotionally satisfied, and closer to loved ones.” He also recommends that you check out the following books to improve your emotional experience of the holidays:

  1. The Intentional Family by William J. Doherty, Ph.D.
  2. Unplug The Christmas Machine by Jo Robinson and Jean Coppock Staeheli

What are some of your family’s special holiday rituals? What kinds of unique traditions have you experienced? What are some of your favorites? Least favorites? We’d love to hear about them! Share and join in the discussion on our Facebook Page.


More in The Archives
Dr. John Gottman’s Tips for Creating Your Own Holiday Rituals
Ellie Lisitsa

Ellie Lisitsa is a staff writer at The Gottman Institute and a regular contributor to The Gottman Relationship Blog. Ellie is pursuing her B.A. in Psychology with an emphasis on Cognitive Dissonance at Reed College in Portland, Oregon.