Now that the holiday season is ending, you might have caught yourself congratulating your inner self on surviving the holidays with some grace… almost. Expectations are elevated during the holidays due to family rituals and assumptions about “how the holidays are supposed to be.” This can be particularly stressful if your family does not bond during the rest of the year and leaves the family spirit only for the holidays.
Is family bonding just a cheerful Christmas card?
Reality: families change, and holidays can highlight everything that may have changed. If families are not bonded enough to talk about or talk too much about these things, it adds to the stress of the holidays. It might be worth considering why family bonding is equally important post-holidays.
Nottingham Trent University conducted a study with 88 students from various universities in the U.K. A negative relationship was found between parental bonding and depressive/social anxiety rates. A negative relationship also existed between mental health rates and social support perceived by family and friends. People who cultivate extended family relationships are at an advantage emotionally, as they benefit from these relationships during times of great stress and joyous events.
Children learn how to behave in society by watching their parents interact with each other and with the world. Children with guardians who spend time with them begin to assign value to their family time and regulate behaviors. If children do not have a sense of family values, they are more likely to be influenced by friends that may not necessarily have their best interests at heart. Multiple studies reveal that children are more likely to develop emotional and behavioral disorders when they receive inadequate or poor family interaction.
Tips for bonding
Pick up the phone. A call to catch up or enquire about a family member’s well-being is the most basic way to communicate and bond. Physical distances limit physical interaction. That doesn’t mean having to stop communicating with your loved ones. With the recent developments in social media, staying in touch has become easier.
The family that eats together, stays together. Bonding with family can actually make one mentally healthier. According to a study published by the Journal of Adolescent Health, frequent family dinners lead to higher levels of emotional well-being and satisfaction with life.
A community sample of 26,069 adolescents (aged 11 to 15 years) participated in the 2010 Canadian Health Behavior of School-aged Children study. Weekly frequency of family dinners, ease of communication and five dimensions of mental health (internalizing and externalizing problems, emotional well-being, prosocial behavior and life satisfaction) were assessed.
The frequency of family dinners positively related to emotional well-being, prosocial behavior and life satisfaction. Parent-adolescent communication was found to be an influencing factor.
Create practical family traditions. Traditions are not just limited to holidays. When deciding upon family traditions, it is important for them to be purposeful and personal. Ultimately, the aim is to achieve family solidarity and meaningful relationships.
It’s important to remember about traditions that families eventually outgrow them. Traditions that worked when your children were toddlers might not have much significance when they’re teenagers. While you should do your best to maintain long-lasting traditions, don’t try to force them if they create more stress than joy.
Types of traditions can include the following:
Create a positive family culture. In recent decades, organizational experts have argued that the development of cultures is not just limited to large societies like countries and cities, but also smaller ones, like corporations and even individual families. What’s more, research has found that family culture plays a more important role in shaping a child than parenting styles, and the type of culture a family develops strongly determines their happiness. Every family has a distinct way of collaborating to solve problems, achieve goals and relate to one another. A family culture forms regardless of a conscious effort put into creating it. It’s entirely on the family to determine whether that culture is of their choice.
Take a family vacation. According to a Disney poll conducted by Kelton research firm, involving 1,000 parents with kids age 5-17, 97 percent of the parents said that their children have gotten to know new things about them while taking family trips. The survey also found that the whole family tends to be more excited, silly and affectionate while on vacation. Doing something different or visiting someplace new may extract a deeper familial bonding from the pleasure of discovering something.
Share the hobbies you already have. The person one ends up being is a direct result of the people your parents were when they were raising you. It may be interesting to notice that you may like the same genre of literature as your mother or like to watch the same sport as your father. Such shared interests are there to stay and can easily be built more upon.
Above all, kindness and understanding is what it takes to make a family. Being bonded with family not only reaps personal and social benefits, but takes off pressure from the holiday stress as well.
The Sovereign Health Group is a leading behavioral health center devoted to the treatment of addiction and mental illness. If you or a loved one are experiencing persistent feelings of resentment, loneliness and depression, call us on our 24/7 hotline for further details and assistance.
Written by Sana Ahmed, Sovereign Health Group writer