This week on Homeschool Highschool Podcast: Grace for Holiday Family Gatherings. This post is running concurrently on the Ultimate Homeschool Podcast Network.
We love having homeschooling siblings to journey along with and have adventures with and learn from. We all learn from each other and discuss all of the things that can be a part of the homeschool high school experience. Every family is different, so embrace what we say all the time: there is not just one right way to homeschool. There are so many right ways to homeschool high school- especially during the holidays!
A big piece of what we are doing in high school is preparing our teens for adulting. They are going to have a life after graduation. Yes, it may be hard to believe it sometimes, but they are. That is a big piece of what we want those high school years to be doing. And building character, communication skills and relational skills is very important, though it sometimes gets overlooked from high school.
Did you know there are different kinds of social situations that can be really great character-building experiences for our teens? And since the holidays are upon us, holiday family gatherings are likely in your near future. Here are some ways to equip your teens for these kinds of situations as well as monitor our own character during family gatherings or extended family get-togethers or even just social settings we all have been a part of from time to time.
Building Grace For the Holiday Family Gatherings
Because of national health issues, getting together, especially during the Thanksgiving to Christmas holidays, has been tougher than ever. And it is so vitally important that we be with other people and find ways to gather, to build relationships, celebrate with, communicate with, share a meal, and all those wonderful things. Oh, sharing a meal is such powerful stuff!
But we have to do it where people have varied degrees of comfort with how close they are to other people. It can be very tricky. So let’s help our teens and ourselves learn how to build grace into our character while approaching these gatherings intentionally, with a level of sensitivity, while we navigate the room with extra people in it.
Tips To Build Grace For the Holidays
When you get together with family, especially extended family, you usually have different versions of what is the right thing to do. In a gathering, is not it funny how we can share a lot of DNA and have very different opinions?
That should be navigated graciously rather than trying to fix the difficult people that are around you and make them “do it right” or “think it right.” Instead, model Christ-like behavior.
1. Check yourself on your assumptions about people.
We think we know all about our family before these extended gatherings since we’ve known them our whole lives, right? So we think we already know what’s going on with them and know how they can be. It’s like we have a backstory about each person in our minds.
One quote comes to mind:
But there’s nothing worse than knowing that you know just to prove that you know absolutely nothing. – Unknown
In reality, you actually have no idea what is going on in somebody else’s head or in their private life, especially if you don’t see them very often. But you think you know them, and you judge them the moment they do something that you don’t agree with.
To form gracious assumptions is to take a moment before the gathering and tell yourself:
I am going to assume there’s a good reason for whatever anybody does at this gathering. Perhaps there’s a good reason I know nothing about it. And if I need to ask about it because I actually need that information, I will do that respectfully. But I will not allow myself to fill in all the blanks in that person’s story because I don’t really know what they’re going through.
So before you even go to the event, agree to intentionally not make assumptions about the other people there.
2. Give them grace even if you think they’re wrong.
So how do we behave when people are not doing it right? One of the things that is our natural response when people are not thinking the right way (because clearly we are the right ones – we are always right) is to let our blood pressure rise while getting an angry face, an irritated posture and start correcting.
We can talk to our teens and model the plan ahead. That is, when people do not do something right, we must still behave with grace towards them.
De-escalate the nonverbals during this time, which will teach your teens how to do that by mirroring your behavior. Have your teen lower their voice while talking a bit more deeper. Then have them bring their shoulders down as well, not up to their ears. See if they can practice a calm exterior.
3. Practice redirection.
Redirection is a beautiful tool. When things are awkward, just redirect the conversation towards a different topic.
You could bring humor into the conversation by making a silly little joke at your own expense, such as saying something funny about yourself or making fun of yourself in a funny way. And before you know it, the uncomfortable or awkward topic is gone. Whatever it was that was a problem is a problem no longer.
Just never aim that “funny expense” at others!
4. Know what your mean face looks like!
In other situations, humans have mirror neurons, so they tend to mimic what they see on other people’s faces. And it happens before you think. For example, when somebody says something kind of stupid and they have their mean face on, your face is going to want to do a mean face too. But if you already know what your calm face is, you can intentionally put on your calm face.
And then people can pick up on their mirror neurons, your calmness, and they will feel some calm too.
It also helped to look in the mirror. They can say:
When I am really mad, this is my face. And when I’m putting on my game face, I’m putting my game face on for the relatives. It’s my calm face.
Therefore, while your teens are in the moment, they can do that and behave gracefully towards them.
5. Stay calm.
Sometimes you might witness a person’s behavior crossing the line into abuse. For example, you see someone in one generation who is cornering someone in the younger generation. This is bullying.
When you need to step in, you can step in very calmly. You might want to start off with saying, “Hey, you can’t talk to them like that. Listen to yourself. You’re being a bully,” even if it is true and honest, but don’t. Unfortunately, it is not going to be very helpful to diffuse the situation.
Instead, handle things calmer and with the redirection skill we mentioned earlier. Say something like:
- How about we take a break and see what’s left on the appetizer table? Cause this isn’t really making anybody feel festive.
- Let’s take a break. How about we do something else for a while?
But you may need to intervene in a situation that is not good, and if so, you can do it without getting upset yourself by projecting calm. This occurs when you stay calm during a heated moment and extends the illusion of authority by being the calmer person.
What may also help a heated situation to add grace for holiday family gatherings is talking in a calm voice with the calm nonverbals. This makes you the one that’s the power broker, since being calm is actually power. You will be stepping in and doing a calm rescue, which will likely cause the bullying person to feel a bit lost or embarrassed. Regardless, they will go settle themselves down somewhere else.
6. Take a deep breath.
Know that all of this calmness comes from a place of taking a deep breath. It may not fix absolutely everything in the universe, but it is fundamental to being gracious, to behaving graciously, and even to thinking graciously. Because if you are breathing shallowly with a tight chest and throat, you’re not getting enough oxygen for your brain to even be functioning at its best.
Take huge, deep breaths before you respond in any way to anybody.
7. Engage in something positive.
Find a new activity even for just a minute to save the grace for holiday family gatherings! In fact, if you can plan ahead before you go to your get-together.
Your kids can make pleasant, engaging conversations with the older family members by asking them to tell their life stories. What was it like in the old days?
By doing this, your teens could log this down as history too! Engage the older ones in storytelling or bring some cards and play a card game. Do things that keep people from just sitting down. This will help lessen any anxiety in the air, and it will create positive engagement experiences.
8. Understand that relationships are more important than opinions.
It helps us grow in grace when we recognize relationships are more important than opinions. God has those beautiful, strong relationships in place, and family is vitally important. Therefore, recognize those relationships are not worth losing over opinions, even over opinions that you hold very dearly.
Simply agree to disagree – you’re going to be family at the end of the day. You can overlook lots of other things and still respect them as an individual.
9. God and grace.
God and grace brings it all home. You can tell your teens:
Sometimes in life, you’re going to need to intentionally do something to facilitate relationships being protected and strengthened. And it is worth it. It’s worth it every time.
Having grace for holiday family gatherings is a good time for your kids to learn life skills, which as we said, you can even log as a couple history hours while you’re at it!
BTW- Give your teens some wonderful Christmas books to enliven their booklist and keep up some of the homeschooling during the holidays, check this post.
Thanks to Richie Soares with Homeschool and Humor for transcribing this episode.
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