Create Meaningful Holiday Traditions with Grandchildren Regardless of Distance
For as long as I can remember, my mother has hand-dipped hundreds of homemade chocolates to give away to neighbors. But for as many years as I have indulged in her chocolates, I have yet to sit down with her to learn how to make them myself. This hobby is too fussy, expensive and time-consuming.
But this fall, one of my friends asked my mother to teach her to hand-dip chocolates and I was a little jealous. Surely Mom has always wanted to pass on her holiday tradition. She has just never had anyone care enough to ask her for her recipes.
A mounting body of evidence tells us that the best way to avoid becoming disabled, dependent and frail as we age is to find creative ways to continue growing, participating and contributing to our families and communities. Researchers call this generativity, and they are finding growing evidence that sharing our skills and traditions invokes very specific, discernible mental and physical health benefits for seniors.
You have a wealth of skills and stories to pass on to your descendants, and family traditions are a fun way of doing it. Here are some ideas to try:
1. Create a ritual in honor of a family member who has passed.
For more than 20 years now, we have had a family tradition of decorating the headstones of our loved ones as part of our annual family Christmas dinner. We pile out of cars, decorate the grave, sing a carol and share one or two happy stories about what we remember best about Grandma and Grandpa.
Another simple decoration appropriate for a cemetery is a paper bag luminary. If you can’t visit the cemetery, luminaries can be placed outside of your own home. Just use white paper bags and weight them down with sand or rice. Add a battery-operated candle to the bag to make it glow.
2. Identify a skill you could teach your grandchildren and organize an online class.
Even the youngest grandkids in our family can make Grandma’s coconut shrimp, her vanilla custard and her special white-chocolate pineapple sweet bread. Chances are good that you have a skill or hobby you could teach the younger members of your family as part of your holiday celebration. Long-distance classes are easy using your favorite videoconferencing platform like Zoom or Google Meet.
3. Have a virtual scavenger hunt and get to know your long-distance family members.
Each year, right after Thanksgiving, we gather our family for an online scavenger hunt. Again, we use videoconferencing software and race to find items somewhere in our homes. The goal is to be the first one back in place at your computer monitor to show off your item. This party is easy to organize, costs nothing and you can keep the game short, fast-paced and age-appropriate for almost any age group. Some of our past scavenger hunt items have included:
- Show your ugliest holiday decor item.
- Find something broken that you have been hanging onto for at least a year because you intend to get it fixed but haven’t.
- Be the first to return to your computer screen fully dressed in a Halloween costume.
- Show the most interesting thing you can dig out of your couch cushions (we take a vote on this one and award prizes).
- Be the first to find and show a selfie of you standing next to someone famous.
Between rounds, we circle through the group and invite each person to think of their most “humble brag” for the year. This is a great way to catch up on the news of what everyone has been up to all year.
Holiday traditions are a great way to rekindle and create family connections. Try one of these, or create a new tradition with your family this holiday season!
About the Author
Lynnae W. Allred is a co-founder of Playdatebox.com, a website dedicated to helping grandparents connect with their grandchildren through curiosity and play. Lynnae is also the author of the children's book Spiderwebs & Spider Silk.