There’s nothing quite like a family gathered around a roaring fire on a cold winter’s night telling stories, sharing memories and enjoying the beauty of the holiday season…unless, that is, you’re actually human and not a Norman Rockwell drawing. Most of us have a romanticized and unrealistic view what time with our family around the holidays should look like – that somehow, somewhere out there is a perfect representation of whatever postcard/film/classic novel-type idea we have somewhere in our mind. This often results in a range of emotions from frustration to disillusionment and usually leaves us feeling let down and disappointed with others and ourselves.
Most of our difficulties with our families when it comes to celebrating the holidays is not with our families per se, but with our beliefs about who they should be. In simple terms it’s about expectation versus reality. This is not to say, however, that we should accept abusive, demeaning or disrespectful behaviors from anyone – especially not our family members.
You may get frustrated and insulted when your college-aged children come home for Christmas and spend most of their time on their phones seemingly disinterested in being with you at all. This isn’t about them and their attachment to their phones: it’s about your desire for connection and sharing with your children.
Your blood may boil knowing that you are seated for dinner next to Uncle Steve who not only voted for Trump but continues to post insulting and offensive comments on your political Facebook posts. This isn’t about Uncle Steve and his political views: it’s about your belief that family members should be respectful and considerate of others – even online.
Your cringe at the thought of having to spend a week with your father who only seems interested in talking about sports and seems to dismiss anything important in your life. This isn’t about your dad and disinterest in your life: it’s about your belief that your parents should take an active interest and investment in what you are doing and what interest you.
Rethinking (or reframing) the way we see these, and similar situations can have a beneficial effect on our emotions, mental health and even your relationship with your family. By shifting the focus away from what you want someone else to start or stop doing, you claim ownership of your values and priorities in your relationships. I am not naïve to suggest that any of this is easy or 100% effective at reducing stress with your family at the holidays (or any other time of the year). By clarifying your needs for others, you give them an opportunity to either meet those needs to explain why they may be unable or unwilling to do so.
I’m sharing a great article on politics and family in the ear of Trump as well as 17 Tips for Dealing with Holiday Stress (for those of you that like lists). As always, I welcome your thoughts, comments and feedback!
My thoughts and reactions to the world in which we live...completely biased and unfiltered.