An open heart during the holidays

Palmer here. Something I have always found interesting and special about the holiday season is that people’s hearts tend to be more open. They are willing to open up their schedule to volunteer for strangers. They donate more to those in need. They are open to going to church services. They are open to more family time. We just tend to open up our hearts a little more during the holidays.

As someone who loves meaningful conversations and connection, I see the holidays as a great time to be more intentional about creating deeper connections with those around me.

This got me thinking: how can parents use this time when hearts are a little more open to deepen their relationship with their family, specifically their kiddos?

When you tuck in a few attempts to connect with your kids more deeply during the holiday season, their radars might not flag it as “cringe parenting” and they might be more willing to engage (you might just have to endure an eye roll or sigh from them 😆). I think starting small during the holidays is a great way to get things rolling. If I could give you one tip on how to do this it would be to ASK QUESTIONS!!! And then, even more importantly, listen. Without judgment. Just listen.

I have a story that prompted me to write this email and think about the ways we can deepen family relationships over the holidays, and I want to share it with you as an example of the power of asking questions.

We celebrated Thanksgiving with my in-laws. The dinner table conversations usually revolve around football, football, and more football. They are a huge sports family. Well, my wife and I were determined to deepen the conversation a bit this year. We tucked a few question cards into our suitcase and brought them to the dinner table.

About halfway through Thanksgiving dinner, we built up our courage and proposed the idea of everyone grabbing a card and picking one question to answer (it genuinely took courage because I’m already known as being the in-law who asks too many deep questions 😅). The questions ranged from “What’s your favorite hobby?” to “What’s your biggest fear?” to “What’s the most important value you live your life by?” and so on. It was a big jump from football stats and playoff predictions.

After some grumbling and a few attempts to scratch the whole idea, we went around the table and everyone answered a question. The conversations were meaningful, heartfelt, and honest. It was beautiful. It honestly caught me off guard a little.

Well, you’ll never guess what happened next.

We finished the round of questions and went to collect the cards, and everyone looked around a little. My sister-in-law said, “Can we do another round?” I think I gave an audible squeak of joy. 🤗 Everyone grabbed a new card – happily, willingly, and with enthusiasm – and we kept the meaningful conversations going. It was so cool.

Relationships were deepened that day. We all learned a little more about each other. Our hearts were opened. It was a small step to create meaningful conversation around the table and is now a memory I will never forget!

So my challenge to you this holiday season is to take that small step to deepen your family relationships. It might be a little daunting to get your teens to participate and there is a chance they say no. If they don’t engage this time, it will help tee up the next time you give it a shot.

The question cards are ESSENTIAL! When your kids have a card it feels less like mom or dad is probing them, and more as if there just happens to be a random question to think about. Here are some of our favorite questions to ask; we’ve created little cards that you can print out and use with your family or friends.

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Palmer Skudneski
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