Building Relational Capital by Rick Wilson, Consulting Psychologist

My oldest daughter just presented a very elaborate, creative and well-delivered Power Point presentation…of her Christmas list. Fancy dissolves, rotating cubes and a thumping sound track pulled me in like a tractor beam. I was impressed, to say the least. Somewhere, on high, I heard the faint chorus, not of angels, but of focus groups and ad execs proclaiming, “Gloria!”

And so it begins: the pressure to please, the set-up for disappointment, the potential to become reactionary, the hurry to get it all done, the family expectations and conflicts. It seems like an impossible balancing act. Ahhhh! The holiday season is here. You probably have your own version of this snapshot. The holidays are inherently stressful. Despite this, there are ways of surviving with your spirit intact.

I don’t know about your family, but we really don’t need more “stuff.” My daughter will probably receive many of the items on her list, but the most important part, from my perspective, as a dad and as a psychologist is this: Looking for intentional ways to build relational capital within the family. No amount of success or achievement can match, or supplant, working to build deeper bonds within our family. Research study after research study affirms this truth—we all benefit most deeply from the feeling and experience of authentic connection with others. So here are some ideas to build relational capital this holiday season. Most of the suggestions cost little money, are not flashy and intentionally “low fi.”

Building Relational Capital:

  • Take an “electronics sabbatical” for some agreed on length of time
  • Make cookies or cook something together
  • Decorate together
  • Play a family touch football game
  • Crank up the music and dance
  • Serve meals together at a shelter
  • Take a short winter hike
  • Walk the dog and have your child join you
  • Play an old-fashioned board game
  • Tell a story about positive holiday memories when you were a young
  • Go bowling
  • Visit a neighbor with a plate of cookies
  • Take your child out for cup of coffee or hot chocolate. Talk in the car ride, sit and enjoy together.

The key is having fun and bonding together! You and your children will not regret it.

Wishing you and your family a wonderful holiday season,
-Rick Wilson, Consulting Psychologist

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