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Simple Practices for Busy Parents to Foster Connection over the Holidays

Holidays, pandemic, 2020, Christmas, Colleen Adrian
Image by Eugene Zhyvchik

Are you with me in wondering how you’ll get through the holiday season with a pandemic going on?

Between having everyone home every day, limited ability to socialize with others, cancelled festivities, and no holiday gatherings with family and friends–it’ll be different for sure, and maybe even daunting in some moments.

Whether you have active energetic toddlers, or restless irritable teens who can’t see their friends, the challenge is real.

My focus is going to be on keeping my calm, and creating connection and warmth in our family as *simply* as possible over the winter solstice and the short dark days.

I’ve made a list of practices that I’ve pinned up on my wall and already started with some of them–will you join me?


Some of these are deliberately small things that you can add into your daily life without much extra time or effort. The intention is to use them for creating connection with your family and also for a little self-care in moments when it all seems too much.

As always, pick from this list anything that you feel drawn to–and leave the rest. The key is to be kind to yourself and choose what feels comforting, nourishing, and appealing to you, not to feel any sense of *should*.

Stories: Tell Them or Listen to Them

Storytelling engages the right brain, and is so connecting. Kids love it. I suggest sharing stories around the dinner table if that appeals to you, or using Story Cubes. However, another tradition we’ve had in our family for at least 10 years now since my son was around 7yo, is to listen to our favourite stories. 

We LOVE (the late) Stuart Mclean, a Canadian storyteller who had a show on CBC radio for many years called The Vinyl Cafe. The warmth and humour in his stories is unparalleled. My son is now 17yo, and we still listen to Stuart’s stories together, especially the Christmas ones at this time of the year, and we both feel the warmth and nostalgia. 

And bonus–starting a tradition like this when your kids are young (with stories or movies) is something you can fall back on for reconnecting when your kids are teens and prefer to spend most of their time with peers. 

I highly recommend his 2-CD set called “A Christmas Collection”. You can find it at the link on Amazon, or likely at your local bookstore.

Finding Your Calm

  • You can use this 10min video either preventatively, to “strengthen” the pathways in your nervous system that help you stay calm, or use it when you’re feeling frazzled to bring your nervous system back down into a calm state: 
  • Time in nature – take in the sights, smells and sounds, and feel the fresh cool air on your face. Being outdoors in nature has multiple positive health effects, not the least of which are connecting us with our senses which is calming, and getting exercise.

Tidy Just One Spot

If you’re like me, and get easily overwhelmed when everyone is home and there’s stuff everywhere, make your goal small.  Just tidy one spot or area daily. (And put some music on and do it together with the kids if they’ll join you!) Then celebrate. Making your goal small and then celebrating your accomplishment minimizes overwhelm and activates the part of your brain that focuses on what you got done (instead of what you didn’t get done).

Little Rituals

Do you have any little rituals that are special to your family, that you do every year?

  • Candles with dinner over these darkest and shortest days of the year
  • A fire in the fireplace, cocoa or tea, and stories one night of the week
  • A movie you watch every year (we still watch Elf every single year!)
  • Favourite cookies that you bake together each year?
  • Collecting items from nature to decorate your house–greenery, pine cones, rocks, shells.

Again, rituals and traditions actually connect us to each other, and often help us feel connected to generations past and future, because we pass them along. They help our kids feel anchored in our families–which supports their self-esteem and self-confidence because of how it supports their nervous systems to feel safe.

Gratitude and Grief

Taking some time to notice and say out loud the things we’re grateful for on a regular basis can help us to feel the abundance we live in, and it can remind all of us of things we might otherwise take for granted. When my son was attending an outdoor 8 shields program, I loved that before meals, one of the mentors would always remind us of all the hands that prepared the meal, and the people before that who grew the food, tended the animals and gardens, transported the food, and so on. It’s a good reminder that we often just don’t think about all the work that’s gone into everything we have.

And, equally important is feeling our grief and sadness when they show up.

It’s always important to notice our grief and express it. This year in particular, I’m hearing more sadness expressed everywhere. I hear it online and from almost everyone I talk to. Everyone has been touched by the COVID19 pandemic in some way, and we need to honour our feelings of sadness, find a listening ear when needed, and reach out to support others without trying to fix it.


Cooking nourishing meals–either alone if you enjoy it, or together with your family, if your kids are old enough to help. (If cooking isn’t your fav thing to do–remember that preparing quick easy meals with loving intention creates connection too–it doesn’t have to be complicated.)

Food is more than physical nourishment. I love what Claudia Curici said in one of her recent newsletters:

“Home cooking is more than just the physical food you are preparing in the comfort of your own home. It’s also about the act of creating authentic nourishment; the time, effort and love that go into home cooking makes this a supreme act of self care and nourishment and impacts your health in a multitude of ways, ways we can’t even imagine.” (from her Holiday Guide Recipe Round-up, November 20, 2020)

(If you eat an anti-inflammatory diet like I do, or just love great food made from scratch, I highly recommend checking out Claudia’s Holiday Recipes:

Reach Out

Reach out to someone else who might be having a hard time this Christmas. Our family will be spending a lot of time on Zoom on the 24th and 25th. My Dad passed away last year on the 24th, and this is my Mom’s first Christmas on her own, *ever*. She’s strong and resilient, but it’s bound to have hard moments. I’m researching what games we can play online, to enjoy some laughs together. 

We’ll also continue having some dinners together via Zoom, with the laptop on the table.

Who can you reach out to, within the pandemic limits we have, to bring some joy to? 

See the Preciousness

Remember that when things seem out of control or your kids’ behaviour isn’t what you hoped, try to pause and look into their eyes, and see the preciousness, before speaking. When I can remember to do this, it changes everything.

(And, when you forget to do this, forgive yourself and repair–there’ll be another chance to try it again soon!)

Do One Thing You Love

Daily if you can. Even if you can only get a few moments to yourself in the day.

A cup of tea alone in the crisp cool air on the sundeck? Read a chapter (or a couple of pages) in a book? Indulge in your fav hobby for a few moments? My latest is re-visiting my love for photography.

Your self care is important.

That’s all for now. I’m going to be away and taking some time to nourish myself and my family for the next few weeks, and will return mid-January.

Thank you for being a part of my community this past year.

I wish you love and warmth through the holiday season, health for your family members far and wide, and many blessings for 2021.