What To Do When Your Holiday Family Tradition Flops

Kara Powell | Dec 23, 2014

Photo by Pro Church Media

Every Sunday during Advent, the five Powells gather around our dining room table for hot chocolate, a discussion on the significance of the birth of Christ, and Christmas carols.

Except for last Sunday. Both of our daughters were in tears, and Dave and I were ticked off.

Five minutes before we were starting Advent, one of our daughters had been exceptionally unkind to the other. We intervened and tears flowed.

Then hot chocolate got spilled, which didn’t help.

That particular Sunday advent pretty much stunk.

As we were tucking one of those daughters in bed, she continued to cry. She didn’t want to talk about what was bothering her (which is the first time she hasn’t wanted to share her feelings with me). So I gave her some space and came back to her room ten minutes later. She was still in tears.

I sat on her bed, stroking her back. She finally opened up. She shared how she felt about how we had disciplined her, as well as some struggles she had been having with friends. I can’t give more specifics here, but let me just say, she shared honestly and passionately. I told her when she finished, “You are so right. You see things so clearly.”

Dave came into the room and he and I both had the chance to remind our daughter about what God sees in her. And what we see in her.

As a family experience, that Advent Sunday was a miserable failure. But here’s what I’ve learned in research for The Sticky Faith Guide For Your Family: The relationship matters most. More important than any single family experience, or any holiday tradition, is that my children know that I love them, I like them, and that I am for them.

So the next time you have a holiday flop (I’m sure I’m in for at least one more before New Year’s), ask yourself: Even if the experiencer or tradition fails, how can our family relationships be strengthened?

Kara Powell

Dr. Kara Powell is the Executive Director of the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI), a faculty member at Fuller Theological Seminary, and Fuller's Chief of Leadership Formation. Named by Christianity Today as one of “50 Women You Should Know,” Kara serves as a Youth and Family Strategist for Orange, and also speaks regularly at parenting and leadership conferences. Kara is the author or coauthor of a number of books, including Growing Young, Growing With, The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family, Sticky Faith Curriculum, Can I Ask That?, Deep Justice Journeys, Deep Justice in a Broken World, Deep Ministry in a Shallow World, and the Good Sex Youth Ministry Curriculum. Kara lives with her husband Dave and their three children, Nathan, Krista, and Jessica, in Southern California.


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