Presence or Presents? Five Ways to Be More Present During the Holidays

Posted by Erin Green, MS, Director of Boys Town Press and Co-Author of Teaching Social Skills to Youth, Fourth Edition on Dec 12th 2022

As you reflect on the holiday season, what images, sentiments, or traditions come to mind first?

Maybe it’s religious services. Or family meals and tasty sweets. Perhaps it’s traveling near and far to see loved ones. Hosting large celebrations or enjoying more intimate affairs. Exchanging store-bought or homemade gifts, or maybe you forgo gift-giving altogether?

Whatever your holiday rituals and customs involve, is there room to explore a new tradition?

This year, I encourage everyone to consider the idea of presence as a present.

In today’s day and age, it can be difficult to carve out time to spend with friends and family. And when you do find time to gather, your usual responsibilities don’t just disappear. Phones, the latest tech gadgets, grocery lists, work emails, and household chores will intrude and distract, making it difficult to truly remain present and stay in the moment.

However, staying in the moment is one of the best gifts you can give yourself and your loved ones. Being present is a wonderful way of showing how much you care, and it costs nothing. If that sounds good to you, then start now.

A child sitting between two parents on a couch reading a book together

These five strategies can help calm your mind and make it easier to be and stay in the moment…  

  1. Start simple. Put away the phone or other digital device. Turn off or turn away from the television. Use the time and space to connect with those around you. Show your loved ones you care through proximity, eye contact, a warm smile, and if appropriate, a gentle hug or touch.
  2. Read together. Good books are gifts that keep giving. Booklovers are created by young people reading together with adults. Discovering the types of books your family members enjoy reading tells you so much about them as individuals. It creates a great way to have discussions with your loved ones. And these discussions lay the groundwork for deeper conversations on more challenging topics later in life! So, find a book about a topic or issue that is important to you, and discuss it as a family. It can be holiday themed, educational, or just plain entertaining. (Check out Boys Town Press storybooks for wonderful stories that teach children important life lessons!)
  3. Show gratitude! Express your thanks. Tell a story you’ve never shared. Ask questions. Invite others to talk about experiences for which they’re most grateful. You may even consider creating a gratitude jar, and then occasionally review what was added to the jar during stressful or challenging times.
  4. Start a new tradition! This is especially fun for newly formed or blended families or friend gatherings. Invite everyone who is willing or interested to share one holiday tradition they experienced growing up (or a story they heard from someone about their own traditions). Are there any that your family or friend group can enjoy together? Is there a way you can combine traditions to create something unique to your family or friend group?
  5. Gift an experience instead of a physical item. Would your loved one enjoy tickets to the theater? A zoo pass? How about an even more personal (and easier on the wallet!) item - a gift booklet of coupons for time spent with you. This can be very meaningful for young and old alike and is a great way to encourage your family to flex their creative muscles! As an added bonus, you’ve come up with a way to guarantee more quality time after the holidays.

As you make your plans to celebrate, remember that time spent with those you love is never time wasted. Whether connecting in person or remotely, there are many different ways for your family to take full advantage of the time they have together. These five examples are just the tip of the iceberg.

From all of us at Boys Town Press, we wish you a safe, healthy, and happy holiday season!