Healthy skills for the holidays

Holidays often bring us back home to family and loved ones. Home and family look and feel different to each of us, and our feelings toward gathering for the holidays may run the gamut as well. In these moments of connecting, celebrating and rest, when traditions are practiced and created, consider taking small steps to express and support healthy development. Here are some ideas: 

  • Open the lines of communication with family and friends. During the holidays is when we often take time to express thankfulness, capture milestones and offer our support or encouragement to loved ones. Take these opportunities to touch base with dear ones on the values that support healthy development for adults and children. Send a message that it’s OK to talk openly, ask for support and nothing is off-limits. Whether it’s affirming how the adults in your family model positive interactions for little ones or bringing up better boundaries, you can plant a simple seed in everyday conversations and share healthy skills. 
  • Encourage healthy boundaries and let loved ones know that they can choose to refuse hugs or other forms of affection without offending you. (i.e. I am a zero obligation hugger! Any high-fives requested will be returned.) This is an especially important message for the little ones in your life, and teaching children about respectful boundaries shows that adults need to honor their body rights. If you choose to bring up boundaries with family, keep it audience-friendly and don’t lecture. Give space and consideration to silence, sensitivity or discomfort that others express. It may feel new, challenging or difficult for folks to consider changing their behaviors and building healthy skills is all about taking small steps. 
  • If gift giving is a part of your holiday practice, choose to purchase products that have a healthier impact. You can do this by choosing sustainable packaging, fair trade or even creating your own gifts. Many children’s toys perpetuate gender norms and stereotypes that are downright harmful, choose to go an alternative route and leave Barbie behind
  • If you, like our feminist blogger, have been giving thought to some of the creepy messages that sneak into holiday tunes, step up with a healthy message. Talk with friends or loved ones about why “Baby its cold outside” falls short of your standard for consent. Get creative and rewrite the lyrics to a holiday tune. (i.e. “I don’t want a lot for Christmas. There is just one thing I need. I don’t care about the presents underneath the Christmas tree. I just want PRE-VEN-TION. More than you could ever know…” You’re welcome, Mariah.)
  • If time-off means more access to media and television than usual, take the opportunity to apply a critical lens. When I find myself catching up on commercials, movie trailers and the latest reality TV phenomenon, it can easily feel like Unhealthy Representation Fest 2012. When representations of gender, sexuality and culture in the media have you outraged you can start a conversation, tweet about it, change the channel or start a petition.  
Take a moment this holiday season to see where you can infuse a healthier habit or start a conversation to positively impact those you love. These tips and ideas can trickle into daily life and family gatherings year-round as well. Share your idea on taking a positive step to support healthy skills by posting a comment below.