Small Action–Big Change via Christmas Traditions


We were blessed to have our girls and son-in-law home for Thanksgiving this past weekend. We continue the holiday merriment by decorating for Christmas over the weekend. It’s one way the Garrison’s celebrate the Christmas season. It’s one of our traditions.

Our traditions keep us connected and defined as a family.

They also keep us connected when relationships are rocky. Throughout Katie’s “prodigal” years we practiced the same traditions we did when she was a child and that have carried into the girls’ young adult years. No matter how difficult a time she was going through, she always looked forward to decorating the tree, making cookies, and making and giving us gifts. Our traditions kept our hearts connected. A heart connection curbs the drift that might otherwise happen.

These small actions have continually said to all the girls—“We love you. We’re family no matter what.”

Come into the fold of our family for a moment and see a few of ours past and present traditions.

  • Christmas ornaments from the location of our summer vacation.
  • Christmas mugs—usually from a November shopping trip to Crate and Barrel.
  • Gene puts the lights and angel on the tree and then sits down and lets the girls take over.
  • Fill a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child (
  • Decorate Christmas cookies the Saturday before Christmas (it gave excited little girls something to do before Christmas).


If your kids are small now’s the time to start. No pressure. What speaks love, fun, and faith to your family? You can always add, delete, or change things up.

If your kids are away from home or there’s a strained relationship or two, keep the tradition going—maybe even with a note of apology if that’s what’s needed. What a gift we give our kids when we make the first and genuine effort to repair our relationship.


A few suggestions to start or carry on your own Christmas traditions:

  • Start with something small, but special to your kids. An advent calendar with a little piece of candy for each day is a great way to help kids focus on the real meaning of Christmas—the Advent of Christ not candy!
  • Carry it on when they’re older, if appropriate. Some traditions are best left in childhood.
  • Use it to strengthen the connection with them, especially if they’re far away. Mail the traditional ornament. Send a box of their favorite cookies. Whatever your tradition, make an effort to carry it on and speak love to your child, expecting nothing in return. That’s the way our heavenly Father gave the first gift of Christmas–His Son.

The important thing is to create a sense of family, belonging, caring, loving no matter what. Throughout November we share “thankfuls” recording them in a special book. We continued it this year through texts two or three times a week. It was meaningful to each of us and kept the kids encouraged through a hard month of work and school.

Will you start a new tradition with your family this year? How about resurrecting an old one and reconnect kids that may be drifting away? I would love to hear your ideas and experiences.


For more ideas on loving your child no matter what check out my book, Love No Matter What: When Your Kids Make Decisions You Don’t Agree With.



Brenda Garrison is an author and speaker who empowers women with the confidence to live their calling. Brenda is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science Degree in Ministry Leadership with a Concentration in Women’s Ministry at Moody Bible Institute. She and her husband, Gene, are the parents of three young adult daughters and live near Metamora, IL.

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