‘Tis the season for buying gifts. With so many choices, the task of holiday shopping can feel overwhelming. Before you hit the stores, try thinking about what gifts you plan to give and why. Do the toys on your child’s “wish list” align with you own family values? Do you worry that your teenager might spend more time with her smartphone than with her family? So many couples and families I see in my practice are longing for healthier relationships and stronger connections to each other. Here are some gift ideas that support family bonding.
1) CityBlocks If you thought blocks were just for babies, think again. I use them in my therapy sessions with children and teens and you wouldn’t believe the conversations that evolve when idle hands become busy building elaborate creations. I’ve seen siblings with very differentpersonalities and interests do some amazing cooperative play with these blocks. They’re a bit pricey, but the
blocks are high quality and durable.
2) Mother and Daughter Letter Book Mother-daughter relationships can be incredibly special and, sometimes, very challenging. This gift comes with 40 blank cards and writing prompts to help mothers and daughters connect through writing. After the notes are read, they’re kept in the keepsake box.
3) Digital Photo Frame for Your Spouse Often, once we become parents, our family pictures seem to center around our children. Uploading “couple” pictures onto a digital frame is a neat way to highlight special memories we share with our spouse. Kids will love to see pictures of Mom and Dad before they became parents too!
4) Fire Pit Winter is here and it would be easy enough to sit by the fireplace, but
think outside the box and try sitting outside off season. Great memories can be made from bundling up with blankets and enjoying hot chocolate and family conversation.
5) Table Topics A cube full of conversation starters (“If you could have a super power, what would it be?” “What is your favorite ice cream topping?”)
is a perfect addition to any family dinner table. Learn things about each other, practice sharing stories, taking turns, and listening.
6) Giant Whiteboard My friend has one of these in her family room and
says it’s great for interactive problem solving and creative brainstorming –
whether it’s a homework assignment or coming up with ideas for weekend
plans. The family decorates it for birthdays and to welcome grandparents when they visit. She doesn’t care a bit that it doesn’t match her beautiful home décor. “We’re in the business of living here and not really overly concerned about appearances,” she says.
7) Segway Tour Tickets It’s hard not to laugh at this idea but I’ve heard rave reviews from families who gave it a try and loved it. You might want to include the grandparents or other relatives on this gift. If a Segway isn’t your thing, try a bike tour or a walking tour.
8) Bird House Kit For $10 you’re getting a birdhouse and an opportunity to do something creative with your child. Seeing the final product displayed in the back
yard for years to come is something the whole family can enjoy.
9) Personalized Photo Book A great way to remember a special trip, activity, or day out with a family member is to create a photo book. These are inexpensive, quick, and easy to make. I like this idea because making photo books of an entire year can feel overwhelming, but if you choose to keep it simple and focus on a special day or event it’s much easier.
10) New and Unique Games Family Game Night is always a good way to
connect. Try posting a sign up sheet on the fridge so family members can sign up to attend family game night and bring special drinks and snacks. Here are some games that are new (new to me at least!) to check out.
Chances are, these are not going to be the big “wow!” gifts on
Christmas morning or the last night of Hanukkah. (That’s
what a new ipad or X-box is for!) The idea here is to give a gift that says
“You’re important to me and I value our time together.” Happy shopping!
Mary McLaughlin, LCSW, LICSW is a couples and family therapist in
Vienna, VA. www.Mary-McLaughlin.com