Stronger Families for the Holidays


In Family Partnership, we know that holidays can be joyous and stressful, happy and emotional, wonderful and tiring.  Parents and caregivers navigate extra expenses that come with the season and they get to experience joy and excitement as well.  We also know that the holidays can offer great opportunity to do the things that make your family strong.   So, here are some suggestions of traditions you can choose for this holiday season.

1)      Tell family storiesThis article by Elaine Reese cites a host of benefits from telling family stories.  Children from family where stories are told regularly “have higher self-esteem and stronger self-concepts… more robust identities, better coping skills, and lower rates of depression and anxiety”.   It also notes that not all stories are created equal.  Make sure to tell stories that include real struggles and challenges but ones which can end on some positive note. Reese suggests, “Telling the story about the time the Christmas tree ignited because of faulty wiring and burned up the presents is fine, as long as you can find a tinsel lining. For example: Luckily you were able to save some favorite ornaments from the blaze, and your family ended up at a soup kitchen for Christmas dinner where you met Marion, who would become a treasured family friend.”  These kinds of stories can show that your family has struggles (like all families), but that you can come through the struggles to find something more in life and such stories help build resiliency in children.

2)      Make opportunities to volunteer together- Volunteering may offer more benefits than you know.     According to research by Cassie Mogilner published in the Harvard Business Review, you’ll actually feel like you have more time, if you volunteer vs “wasting time, spending time on yourself, or even getting a windfall of free time”.  A report from Harvard Health Publications also finds that volunteering on a regular basis actually makes people happier.   Volunteering is also a great way to meet new people and expand your social connections as mentioned in a previous Family Partnership blog post.  Be creative when you volunteer, consider the following possibilities: raking a neighbor’s leaves, making cards for people in the hospital this season, taking yummy food to the people who serve all year round, like police officers, nurses, and firefighters.

3)      Remember that the holidays don’t have to be perfect.  The myth of the perfect holiday has ruined many a holiday.   The time can be special without being perfect.  Your crazy uncle may stop by and demand attention with his stories.  The pies might end up burnt to a crisp.   Or your family may be struggling with the pain of having lost someone this year.  Breathe through all of the stress it.  Teach your children to handle the imperfections of life with grace.

This edition of Family Partnership blog is brought to you by Grace McKenzie, Associate Director of Family Partnership.


The word “Hallopalooza” implies a gathering of people having fun.  Learning and fun came together when Jackson County High School teachers, Natalie Gabbard, Promise Neighborhood Art Content Specialist, the local Truett Pumpkin Patch and I collaborated to put on Hallopalooza for Jackson County High School students and their families.

When families arrived, the high school students were given a post card with six check boxes.  At each station, students received a stamp for the card.  They had to visit at least three areas to get the incentives offered by the teachers.

The first area was the corn maze which was cut out in the shape of the USA. Prior to the event art students made large posters for each state that included the population, state flag and flower, capitols and other large cities, and some interesting facts about each state. We laminated the posters and posted them throughout the maze to mark the state lines. This was part of the art station and geography. The other art station was pumpkin painting. Several examples were on display and art students were there to help families make their designs.

Around the bonfire, the history teacher told about the history of Halloween, dressing up, pumpkin painting and bonfires.  On the hayride the English teachers had storytelling. Students were encouraged to write stories in class to share. Under the shelter the families wrote poems that started with the letters of the word Halloween.

One of the more popular areas was the Pumpkin Cannon. The pumpkin patch is owned by the Math teacher at the High School. He explained the math and science behind the pumpkin cannon. The students had to guess the distance and the trajectory of the pumpkin based on the different PSI settings used on the cannon.

In total we had 153 people that attended. The families had a great time and the teachers were already making plans for next year and how we can make it bigger and better.  Hallopallooza 2016 planning starts now!

This edition of the Family Partnership blog is brought to you by Mark Ann Keck. 

Mary Ann Keck is a first-generation college graduate and lives in Jackson County. She started with Berea College as a FAST parent partner during the Promise Neighborhood planning year. She has been involved with parent groups for 22 years, beginning when her daughter started preschool. She served as a school PTA Vice President for 5 years, and as PTO president for 3 years. She worked with Forward in the Fifth and ran the Parent Information Resource Center (PIRC) in Jackson County. She implemented Grassroots Leadership workshops in 7 counties. She is a Prichard Committee Commonwealth Institute for Parent Leadership (CIPL) graduate. She serves as chairperson for the JCHS youth service center. Mary Ann is passionate about this work because of her own children but also because this is her home. She taught her children that you give back to the community you live in and she feels she can help parents by being a resource to them. The 3 E’s of parent work-Engage, educate, empower!