Bert Hayslip Jr.

How do you create positive family traditions during the holidays?

The holiday season, while sometimes fast and furiously schedule-driven, is actually a prime time to come together as a family and reinforce the benefits of belonging to a group, says Bert Hayslip Jr., Regents Professor of psychology.

“Focusing on the unity and shared history within a family comes easier as we develop rituals to celebrate family,” he says. “For me, the most memorable holidays were not the ones when I got the most presents, but when I spent time with my sisters and parents.” 

In creating positive family traditions during the holidays, Hayslip says everyone should remember to:


  • Focus on the year’s highlights such as the birth of a child or grandchild, a job promotion or triumph over illness. Celebrating together creates support systems for harder times — death, illness and job loss.
  • Develop meaningful family traditions. Decorate the tree, cook the meal, watch football or take a trip together.
  • Think consciously about why you’ve gathered. Focus on the being, not the getting.


  • Leave the past behind. Be willing to forgive past misunderstandings, in order to create new meaningful memories together. Think collectively of the whole family as opposed to individuals in the family.
  • Don’t expect equality. Sometimes one family member needs extra attention to help deal with hard times. Be willing to listen and offer support.  


  • Care for others. Deliver meals or donate gifts to a shelter.
  • Relax and treat the holidays as a mini vacation from everyday life. Take naps, ride your new bike or play board games.
  • Go beyond the material and give of yourself to create many happy holiday memories.