How to Prepare for Family Bonding Around the Holidays

The early fall, accompanied by cool winds and colorful pageantry, is exciting for many reasons. It is time to begin a new school year, celebrate the High Holidays, and trade in those clingy tees for your comforting cable-knits and tweed.

Though this is also a deeply spiritual time, we sometimes get lost in planning the logistics. We often find ourselves focusing more on the most celebratory aspects of the New Year, such as seeing extended family or hosting a feast.

While we are busy writing our back-to-school shopping lists, it is easy to forget that soon we will convene at our synagogues where, in a highly emotional setting, the events of the past year will be remembered.

Are you ready to repent and renew your focus this year? Are your children ready to go back to school and face new teachers, new peers, and new challenges? How can we best clean our slate so we can move forward and enjoy the High Holidays?

The following tips can alleviate your stress and help guide your family’s transition from the lengthy and simmering summer season to the crisp, fast-approaching, hectic fall.

Set aside a planning day.

If you have children, they will soon be at school. You may not have as much time with them as you did in the summer months. Before you lose them to teachers, classes, and extracurricular activities, take a day off to enjoy time together. Invite your spouse to do so as well.

Use the day to plan ways to reconnect and bond throughout the new school year. Define a time you can be together as a family every day, such as enjoying breakfast or dinner together. Designate a weekly family night, where you all commit to eliminating outside obligations.

Also, use this day to work together as a family to handle back-to-school shopping and other preparations. You’re not only likely to get things done faster and be more relaxed while doing it, but working together is a great way to make your family feel like a team striving for the same goal.

Reflect on the year so far.

For families who are struggling to move forward and bond together, remember the traditions of repenting, forgiving, and renewing our promises to G-d and each other. This is the perfect time to offer sincere apologies for the sins we’ve committed in the past year.

We can take this opportunity to forgive mistakes made by those who have wronged us, so we can start again with a fresh love for the people in our family.

What have you learned in the past year that has impacted your family? What have you learned about your family that has strengthened your relationship?

Talk about what each of you really want out of the rest of the year.

With school and holidays come obligations. Sometimes, lots of them. Start the season with an open dialogue about the upcoming challenges you may face individually and as a family. Talk about the reasons you celebrate the High Holidays.

Have a family discussion which includes the following questions and topics:

  • What goals do you have for the New Year? These can be educational, emotional, financial, spiritual, or any other type of goal that you would like to discuss with your family.
  • How will your family feel most comfortable holding celebrations and reuniting with extended family?
  • If there was a loss in your family, how will you address that loss during the holiest days of the year? Would you find solace in reliving old memories and looking at old photographs? Would it be more beneficial to focus on this holiday’s celebration and the future of your family?

No matter what your familial situation looks like this holiday season, remember to plan ahead. The holidays, much like crafty calories, sneak up on us quickly. Preparation goes a long way to reduce stress, ensure family bonding time, and show the effort you are making to bring your family together.


Written by: Sara Freed

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