By: Nicole Kleemann, Creative Leadership Coach


Everybody wants to be seen, heard and acknowledged. Family and friends gatherings are about creating and stabilizing the bond between us. To make the holidays this year meaningful you want to find a way to hear, see and acknowledge those closest to you, even if the medium is online instead of in person. 

Weeks leading up to holiday events

1.) Acknowledge and voice your emotions and expectations beforehand. If you need to vent your anger, frustrations, sadness, or worry, call a family member or a friend and let it out way ahead of the actual meeting. Video conferencing may be a great avenue. From this conversation, you can learn and understand what is really important to you and create a wishlist of what you need from this year’s family gathering. This will then influence how you all come together to create a unique experience.


2.) Let go of your ideal, most-favorite holiday memory and accept that this year will be unique. 


3.) Prepare for a unique holiday gathering. This may be in person for smaller groups (your household) or on Zoom or other video venue for larger extended family and friends.


4.) Consider storytelling themes. See more on that below. 


How to prepare

Define what can make this year’s holiday gathering unique and meaningful.
Purposefully create uniqueness. As this is hopefully a once in a lifetime experience, you can question all your rituals and traditions, turn them upside down, and voice which ones are really important to you. 

  • What would make you happy and satisfied and make the celebration meaningful? 

  • How can you keep your most at risk love ones safe? Can you schedule some online zoom gatherings ahead of time instead of large family gatherings? For smaller gatherings, can you arrange for having them outdoors?

  • How do you want to really connect with your family and friends?

  • While you might not share one table, one meal together this year, what can you share during the season that would feel rewarding? 


Build connection through storytelling themes and play

1.) Move and play outside and bring this back to your loved ones through photos and video.

2.) Build paper boats with notes of gratitude and let them go in a river stream (make a short video of it and share it). 

3.) Collect fall leaves and create a collage, build a snowman, sand castle, mud can even make it a competition if you like.

4.) Create a sensory story: Find an item that reminds you of a favorite moment (maybe a shell from a beach), a spice that reminds you of your favorite food, or a tool that describes your favorite activity. (See resources on my blog)


5.) Create a scavenger hunt through your family history (find something that appeals to all or each age group individually). Google “Family Scavenger Hunt” for more inspiration. Here are some ideas:

  • Find out what uncle X’s favorite game was when he was 5 years old.

  • Find pictures of places your grandparents lived (Google Maps can work) and have the grandparents tell a story about it?

  • Who can share the secret family recipe for X?

  • What funny story do your kids likely not know about you?

  • Who wore the worst halloween costume ever in your family? And what is the story? Vote.

  • Get out of the house and search for X (fall leaves, holiday decorations in the neighborhood, something purple).

  • Make a collage about the stories you have heard.

  • Use icebreaker cards or table topic cards.

  • Get out the good ol’ Scrabble board or Trivial Pursuit games out and play alongside each other. Use a group text to share the most outrageous words. Maybe allow (finally!) to get the spelling wrong, use made up words etc. (as long as the person can defend their word/spelling). 

  • Create thank you and gratitude notes. Ensure you mail them ahead of time to family members so you can open them together and read aloud. 

6.) Consider who is alone in your circle or neighborhood and include them, by dropping off food to them and/or creating gifts for them, or inviting them to your zoom sessions. 

7.) Share your experiences through pictures, videos and stories in a group chat etc.


When sharing stories…

Create some parameters about how to share the stories remembering everybody wants to be seen, heard, and acknowledged. That way you avoid talking all at once or above each other.


Example:  Give each person some time to share a story (5-10 min). The other members can witness the story and listen without interruption. Thank the person for sharing the story. Each person can build on what they heard or focus on what they’d like to share. When each person has spoken there is time for further discussion (or breakout rooms if you’re using Zoom). The listeners should listen with wonder and curiosity: “I wonder why this story is so important to him/her to share with us.”



Above all, be present in each moment during a very unique year, thankful to be creating new, different memories. 


For resources on the above, please see my blog.