The key to strengthening family bonds is simple – talking

Dec 17, 2019
It can be difficult to spark up a conversation at Christmas, so an expert has come up with some helpful questions to get the chat started. Source: Getty

We’re a chatty bunch, us Aussies. And while Christmas should be the ideal setting to strike up a conversation with family members you haven’t seen in a while, a new study has revealed that while we love a chat, as a nation we struggle to engage in anything more than ‘small talk’ with our relatives.

The nation-wide study by Ancestry and family therapist Jacqueline McDiarmid looked into the views of Aussies on spending Christmas with their relatives and found nearly half – 47 per cent – struggle to engage in more than ‘small talk’ with their nearest and dearest. Meanwhile, of the 1,000 surveyed, 44 per cent claim they feel less connected to their families than ever before.

While it could mean you’ll find yourself in some awkward situations this Christmas, McDiarmid said avoiding those conversations poses a much greater risk. According to the study, 80 per cent of Australians don’t have well-established Christmas traditions and if families continue to avoid having in-depth conversations for fear of awkwardness, this will only increase.

“Many people today are feeling more isolated and we often live in different parts of the world to our families, making it hard for relatives to spend quality time together,” McDiarmid said. “However, being connected to family is crucial for people to form a sense of identity and belonging.”

Instead of approaching the festive season with trepidation, McDiarmid suggested viewing it as a chance to spend precious time together and form stronger emotional connections.

“Christmas is a perfect time to tell the stories of our family roots and ancestors to our children and other members of our extended family,” she said.

Brad Argent, family history expert at Ancestry agreed with McDiarmid and said if families don’t put more effort into the way they interact with each other, they could miss the chance to create special memories with their loved ones.

“The downtime over the festive season is a great chance to reconnect with family and to get to know not only your living relatives but your ancestors and the rich lives they lived,” he said.

“By going on a journey with your family members to explore your shared history, you can create new, priceless memories that can be passed down through generations.”

To help spark those conversations around the Christmas table this year, McDiarmid together with Ancestry has put together a list of questions to get the conversation going.

  1. What are your earliest memories?
  2. How did you celebrate Christmas when you were a child?
  3. What were your parents like and what are your clearest memories of them?
  4. Where were you born? Did you get up to any trouble as a child or teenager?
  5. What was your first job? Why did you choose the career you have/had?
  6. What is the most important advice you got from your grandparents?
  7. Where have you travelled in the world and what was it like travelling back then?
  8. Where did you get your name from? Was it passed down from someone in our family?
  9. What is your favourite legend/story/secret you know of our family?
  10. Who out of your grandparents were you the closest to and why did you connect more with this person?

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Do you find it hard to start conversations with loved ones you haven't seen for a while? How do you avoid the awkwardness?

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