Staying connected as a family can be challenging during the holidays, especially after you factor in parties, school programs, family celebrations and the everyday busyness of life. But don't worry — connecting doesn't have to be complicated! Here are 10 ways to connect with your kids this holiday season.
1. Play games.
A lot is going on right now, but playing games with your kids is a great way to connect. Mom or Dad, let's be honest: We can sometimes see this as an inconvenience. Most games are pretty quick, though, and your kids will appreciate the time you spend together. So break out the cards or board games, and let them win a little.
2. Include them in the holiday prep.
If your family is like mine, you've probably been going in 10 different directions. That's a lot for kids to take in. And they want to be helpful. Let them help with baking and wrapping presents. If you're hosting a party, they can help get the house and food ready.
3. Have them pick a favorite thing to do during the holidays.
There's so much to do and so much fun to be had! Find out what your child loves to do, and do it as a family. My oldest always wants to ice skate, so we'll carve out some time after New Year's to hit up an ice rink. Our youngest loves Christmas lights, so we take every opportunity to enjoy the lights.
4. Sing Christmas songs together.
Nothing says holidays like music. Let everyone pick out some songs, and sing them together. Let the kids take the lead. Create a playlist for car rides. Maybe you can even go Christmas caroling!
5. Watch holiday movies together.
Grab some popcorn, ditch the electronics and watch some holiday classics. Maybe let each member of the family choose a favorite. A fun idea is to let everyone write movie titles on a slip of paper and drop them in a jar. Then you can randomly select and enjoy them together (without fighting over who goes first).
6. Try hot beverages together, and teach them how to make their favorite.
You know what's good on a cold day? A hot drink! Introduce your kids to a few hot drinks, and make them together. My 9-year-old loves to make hot chocolate with mini marshmallows and a candy cane. Get creative, and help them discover what they like.
7. Set aside time to check in on them.
The holidays are hectic for everyone. Rushing from work parties to social parties to school events can be exhausting. Your kids feel it, too. Set aside some time to talk and see how they're doing. Listening can help you connect deeply with your kids.
8. Make something special for others.
Our family has two holiday traditions that we look forward to every year. We make peppermint bark for our neighbors. The kids have transitioned from just delivering it to helping make it. They love to give. We also bake cookies for first responders on Christmas. They love to deliver these to the local fire or police department. Ask your kids what you can do as a family to give back to those around you.
9. Serve the community.
The holidays are a terrific time to give back. Contact local organizations to see if you can volunteer as a family. Try your local food bank, homeless shelter or the Salvation Army if you're unsure where to start. Or try one of our personal favorites: Clean up a local park or neighborhood.
10. Take a family day.
Most kids get a two-week break for the holidays. You may have travel plans and family gatherings that take up lots of that time. But take a day for just your family. Make it an adventure, and let the kids help plan it.
I've found that the greatest gift I can give my kids is my time. We love creating memories together. They may not remember the presents you gave them, but they will cherish your presence and attention.
Mitchell Qualls is operations director of family advocacy nonprofit First Things First. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.