Unplug and Reconnect this Holiday Season

In America today, the average citizen spends 6 ½ hours per day on digital devices, outside of work. Parents of teenagers may find this number excessively low. Social isolation among people is on a steep increase, even amongst families. Particularly for older members of the family, finding everyone’s head down and focus on a piece of electronic equipment is annoying at best. This holiday season, we propose you disconnect so that the family can reconnect!

You've unplugged, now here are some ideas how you can reconnect with your family during the upcoming holidays.

Questions to consider:

??? Would your teenagers consider giving you the gift of an unplugged holiday (certain hours perhaps) for Christmas? During which time they will park the electronics and be available in attention and spirit?

??? And to up the ante a little, would you give them the same gift? ‘Putting our money where our mouth is’ is an important way to show that parents are not hypocritical about expectations.

??? Can you set a Facebook/Twitter status to let people know that you will be unavailable for a certain timeframe – even 5PM on Christmas Eve through 3PM on Christmas Day?

??? Will you honor older family members by setting a family rule that electronics will not interrupt family time during Thanksgiving meals or Christmas events?

Some suggestions to entertain family members while going e-free:

  • Bake something together
  • Have everyone not involved in the kitchen activities decorate sugar cookies together, and let the eldest (or youngest speaking) member of the family pick their favorites
  • Perform a funny skit (it’s ok to haul out electronics to video this)
  • Video kids singing favorite songs
  • Craft something – one year my entire extended family painted clear plastic ornament balls for the Christmas tree. The sky was the limit for our artwork. Some of the family is no longer with us and those simple painted ornaments touch our hearts every year.
  • Dance party – have a teenager make a mix CD of music appropriate for the younger guests, and let kids get the wiggles out while dancing.
  • Spa Day – teen girls may enjoy putting on a spa day for the tweens and youngers, or even each other. Have nail polishes and supplies ready, and give them a quiet corner for their creativity.
  • Color or decorate Jesse Tree ornaments (to begin using them December 1)
  • Board games – these are a great way to connect multiple ages!
  • Play balloon volleyball (adults on their knees) over a string stretched between two chair backs or a large doorway.
  • Ask the family matriarch or patriarch what the entire family could do to volunteer together for a few hours. Do they have some yard or housework that needs doing? Photos that need put in an album? A closet cleaned out? Do they have a volunteer organization they would like everyone to work with?
  • Eat supper by candlelight
  • Take lots of several-generation family photos

Host a family-wide contest 

  • Baby Picture ID – have everyone bring or pre-send copies of a baby photo, and set up on a white board (available at discount stores). Give each person a piece of paper and a list of names, and guess Who is Who.
  • Scavenger Hunts – indoors or out
  • Information Scavenger Hunts – what is Great Grandma’s sister’s name? Who attended school back east? Who loves pistachios? Who has a pair of overalls in the closet? Who loves to read mysteries? Who has a toe ring? Who knows how old King Tut was when he died? Pass out a page with 20 questions and pens, and let the fun begin.
  • Spoon Hanging: who can hang a spoon off their nose for longest? Heat a spoon with your breath, then polish it off, then hang away. Designate a photographer.

Have fun awards, like cheesy ribbons or plastic statues, or gift certificates to frozen yogurt stores, a bookstore, Amazon… or simple things like a candy bar or the right to be King or Queen for the day.

Outdoors Fun

  • Go sledding, skiing, or try skijoring with your dog.
  • Take a horseback ride.
  • Hike in the woods and decorate a remote tree with bird seed suet, apples and nuts.
  • Ice fish.
  • Take winter photographs.
  • Help decorate an elderly family member or neighbor’s home with lights for the holidays (and don’t forget to help take them down afterwards).

My family’s “Black Friday” is known as “Green Friday” instead, and rather than facing long lines and thousands of other shoppers, we load up the SUV and head for the woods. We ice fish at a favorite lake, generally under brilliant blue skies, and cut down our utterly fresh and fragrant Christmas tree (having obtained our forest service permit first). We bring turkey sandwiches for lunch, and either thermoses with hot chocolate or a rocket stove to heat water and make coffee, hot tea, or hot cocoa. Those color-saturated photos always wind up on our Christmas cards or photo books we send to family out of state.