Family Connectedness and the Holidays


Holiday Happenings

Family sharing a meal and laughing together

The holiday season is an exciting time for many families, and being together is on the minds of adults and the youth. While family connectedness and bonding with youth is important year-round, the holidays are an opportunity for families and other caring adults to engage with adolescents.


Connectedness means having a quality, mutual, and sustained emotional bond. Parent-child connectedness is a protective factor that helps to reduce negative behaviors, such as substance use, and boosts positive behaviors, such as school achievement. Adolescents’ connectedness to siblings, grandparents, mentors and role models, or godparents also is beneficial and can be strengthened during this time. Below are resources for sparking conversations with adolescents and building relationships, warmth, and support.


Resources for Improving Connectedness

Conversations for the Season. Improving communication is a key part of establishing connectedness with youth. Here are some conversations that can engage youth:

  • Materialism is sometimes promoted around the holidays. Adults can shift the focus away from possessions and money and instead focus on family traditions and strong relationships.
  • Thankfulness and expressing gratitude is linked to bolstering well-being in numerous ways, such as boosting immune systems, life satisfaction, and engagement with hobbies. Get tips on how to help youth develop gratitude from the Youth Gratitude Project.

Balancing Friends and Family. During holiday breaks from school, adolescents may face conflicting priorities between their families and their friends. Coming up with ground rules together, getting to know your teen's friends and interests, and letting young people have some autonomy are all ways to strengthen relationships with them. Here are some tips for families on how to stay involved with adolescents.

Tech Tips. Cell phones and other technology at family gatherings can distract from time spent with each other, but there are ways families can work to establish rules for phone usage. Parents and caregivers also can create a family media plan with this tool from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Managing Stress. The holidays can be stressful and strain relationships. The CDC’s Holiday Health and Safety Tips provides ideas for managing stress and traveling safely.


Supporting Families, Caregivers, and Networks for Adolescents in All Situations

For some youth, holidays might be an especially challenging time. Family or other supports might be out of reach or unable to play a central role in holiday activities. Here are some resources for families or adolescents in different situations:

  • Young Adults and Co-parenting: Some adolescents and young adults co-parent, or work together to care for a child. Collaboration and sharing responsibilities between parents, caregivers, or older siblings is important for the well-being of the child as well as those involved in their care. Here are some tips for programs and service providers to help adolescents and young adults improve their co-parenting skills.
  • Military Families: Families may have an actively deployed member who may not be able to come home for family gatherings. Military One Source provides resources for military families.
  • Youth Homelessness: Some youth do not have a stable home for the holidays. This collection of resources from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for homeless youth service providers discusses strategies for rapid re-housing, coordinated entry with youth, and engaging youth in the decision-making process.
  • Incarcerated Parents: Youth with incarcerated parents or other family members may have limited contact with them during the holidays. This tip sheet helps parents who are incarcerated plan for and get the most out of a visit from their child or children. 




U.S. Department of Health & Human Services -


Filed Under: Health