A surprising way to support your family in thriving this holiday season

Happy whatever you may be celebrating today!

When holiday season comes around, so do all of our memories, both positive and negative, that have shaped our experience of this time of year. There’s so much attached to the holidays from the past that determines the quality of our experience in the present.

In a family that we’ve worked with, “Sally”, a successful, dedicated, loving wife, and mother of five, and grandmother to six was feeling inordinately stressed and overwhelmed. She had had a nasty flu bug for a week that made it impossible for her to do all the things that she felt needed to be done in order to fulfill the holiday traditions she wanted to provide for her family. Her husband wanted her to be relaxed and enjoying the holidays and asked her to consider letting go of those past traditions and enjoying the holidays in a more low-key way. Sally became hurt and defensive, and he couldn’t understand why.

I explored with her what the season meant to her and what values those traditions in particular helped her to express. Then, her husband was coached to support her from her values and what mattered most to her, and to ask questions to help her see what she wanted to accomplish for herself and her family, with the least amount of stress possible.

I invite you to take a few minutes to contemplate what the holidays mean to you. Give yourself some time to reflect on what is most important to you about the holidays? Everyone can access stories of what they loved and hated about how their families chose to celebrate the holidays. Here’s the kicker: so often those traditions were set in motion by relatives who are long-gone, and while we want to be true to family tradition, what prompted them, may no longer be relevant.

My business partner, Jamie Traeger-Muney, loves the story of a woman who always cut the end off her Hanukkah roast before cooking it. One day her 8-year-old daughter asked her why she cut off part of the meat and didn’t include it with the rest of the roast. The mother explained that her mother had always done it that way, so that’s how she learned to do it.

That evening, the inquisitive little girl asked her grandmother why she always cut the end off her roasts before cooking them. Grandmother said that her mother had always done it that way, so that’s how she learned to cook a roast. The little girl trotted over to her great-grandmother, sitting quietly in the corner. She asked her great-grandmother if she could remember why she always cut the end off the roast, to which the elderly woman replied, “Simple, my roasting pan was so small and my oven so tiny, that the only way I could fit a roast in was to cut the end off.”

So often in life we do things from a place of tradition, from a place of “that’s how it has always been done,” and we don’t take the time to ask ourselves what the value and meaning is for us in each celebration.

As families grow, they become a compilation of various traditions from a multitude of backgrounds. The traditions you choose to follow from relatives who grew up differently (and whom you may never have known) can be painful reminders of what you no longer have. If you experience particular challenges about who to be with when, or if you’re in a blended family with divorced parents or partners, you may find yourself in situations that necessitate being with one family and not with the other. In situations like this, there can be a strong sense of being in a lose/lose situation, where no matter what you do, someone won’t be happy. What would it be like to tune into what makes you truly happy, and start from there?

Jamie and I always look for ways to help our clients consciously blend their families. Exploring the particular values and treasured memories of each person in your household as they relate to the holidays can be quite revealing. You’ll discover new information about yourself and about your family members, and have fun in the process!

Action Step: Discovering Your Family’s Holiday Values

Here are some questions to discover the meaning of the holidays for each member of your family. Jamie and I invite you to set aside some uninterrupted time to ask each other the following questions:

  • What is your favorite holiday memory?
  • What made it so special?
  • What is most important to you about the holidays?

Share with each other, and listen without responding. Wait for each person to finish sharing before the next person starts. You might want to pass around an ornament with the understanding that whoever is holding it is the only one who can speak.

Now that you’ve had a chance to explore your values and what means the most to each of you, ask each member of the family how they would like to express the spirit of the holiday season this year. This is not about whose way is the “best” and wins out; this is about each person sharing from their hearts. We then invite you, as a family, to have fun creating space for everyone’s particular way of expression!

For more ideas on how to make the most of being with family during the holidays, download our free Holiday Survival Guide for Families.

Originally published at /events/easyblog/entry/discovering-your-family-s-holiday-values.

Originally published at medium.com


  • Emily Bouchard

    Leadership and Legacy Consultant at Ascent Private Capital Management at U.S. Bank; speaker, author of Estate Planning for the Blended Family and Beginner's Guide to Purposeful Prenups

    Ascent Private Capital Management at U.S. Bank