Dr. John Gottman’s Tips for Creating Your Own Holiday Rituals

Instead of going through the motions of the holiday season, be intentional about what connects you and your loved ones as a family.

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Instead of going through the motions of the holiday season, be intentional about what connects you and your loved ones as a family.

Instead of going through the motions of the holiday season, be intentional about what connects you and your loved ones as a family.

Our Gift to You This Holiday Season

Engineering a holiday celebration that will make everybody in your family happy can be exhausting. In an atmosphere filled with stress, in fierce pursuit of some unattainable vision of perfection, it’s all too easy to lose all sense of meaning and to feel like you are trying hard, but still ending up going through the motions. This year, try something new.

Think of the holidays as a chance to celebrate whatever makes your family unique. Think about your shared philosophies, values, sense of humor, and what kinds of rituals might further your identity as a family!

In “The Relationship Cure” Dr. John Gottman shares this advice:

Create holiday rituals that express your family’s own unique likes and dislikes. This adds to children’s sense that participation in the celebration strengthens their ties to the clan. (“Our family thinks having a dead tree in our house at Christmas is a dumb idea. We buy a live one in a pot, decorate it, and then plant it later on.” “Our family loves animals. We always go to the zoo at Passover time and see the new babies.”) Some families create rituals around their own idiosyncratic holidays – an annual drive to the country in the fall to view the autumn color, for example, or a trip to the ocean at summer solstice.

So take a look at your family traditions this year. Dr. Gottman suggests that you “weed out those that make you feel harried, worried, or put upon… and cling instead to those rituals that leave family members feeling peaceful, emotionally satisfied, and closer to loved ones.” He also recommends that you check out the following books to improve your emotional experience of the holidays:

  1. The Intentional Family” by William J. Doherty, Ph.D.
  2. “Unplug The Christmas Machine” by Jo Robinson and Jean Coppock Staeheli

Ellie Lisitsa is a staff writer at The Gottman Institute and a regular contributor to The Gottman Relationship Blog. Ellie is pursuing her B.A. in Psychology with an emphasis on Cognitive Dissonance at Reed College in Portland, Oregon.