Teen Health 411
Teen Health 411

Holiday Letters - Are you Ready?

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Dread or delight? Maybe you write holiday letters to keep people you care about involved in your life. Maybe you hate holiday letters because they sound so "cheery" and make your own reality seem "dim" in comparison. Whichever reality you call your own, here is a perspective for you.

Creating the family holiday letter does not have to be a headache and if you try it, you might like it! Holidays in most cultures and religions are rituals and therefore contain an opportunity for reflection, assessment, and goal setting. By trying to write a holiday letter, you guarantee yourself a little time to take a break from the daily grind, pull yourself "out of the soup," and look at the broader issues in life. You also create a history of the year - although brief, which will become a keepsake for your children about their childhoods.

There are different types of things you can mention in the letter - large themes or concepts, events or accomplishments. Some letters are just collages of photos or quotes from kids. Anything is possible and most things are enjoyed by the readers of the letters - just keep it light. The "real" story about the high conflict divorce and legal bills might not warm the souls of the reader - and will not make you happy or feel like you have accomplished something, either. Amidst the worst year of our lives, there is always something we are proud of!

Here are some suggestions to get you thinking about what you might want to share with your friends and loved ones.
  • What phase are the kids at, what are they trying to accomplish or striving for?
  • What are they proud of, what would they change if they could?
  • How is your life balance between family and career working?
  • Where does community service fit in?
  • What rituals in your day make you happy?
  • What changes have happened in your family this year?
  • Did you implement a family game night or mandatory sit down dinner?
  • Did you start a hobby you always dreamed of?
  • Did the family have a family meeting or negotiate rules for driving, curfews, dating?
  • Did you plan or take a family vacation?
  • Is your life as a parent what you thought it would be?
If after reading this you decide life is just a daily grind of work, school, laundry, cleaning, and car repair, then set a new goal with your family and write the letter about it - a promise to yourselves about what next year will include.

I admit, I am a holiday letter writer - mostly because my life is really busy and I never seem to make the time to email friends, no less write old-fashioned letters. I alleviate some of the guilt by sending the annual holiday letter some time between November and January. In it, we cover the events of each season, the kids contribute text, quotes, or pictures to the letter, and if I am really lucky, they Photoshop the letter and help address and stamp the envelopes, usually at our favorite camping cabin, without school, homework or work to worry about.

There are a few basic rules about these letters:
  • They should be brief - about one page
  • Be upbeat
  • Include art or photos
Go ahead, try it! Have fun, and by the way, happy holidays - they are coming, whether we are ready or not!

Photo Credit: LoyCorp

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About the Author

Dr. Brown is a developmental psychologist specializing in adolescent health.

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