Reflecting on my own family time during the holidays growing up, I remember heading to my Aunt Mary’s each Thanksgiving and falling in love with green bean casserole. Christmas day was filled with a big breakfast after my parents and I exchanged gifts by the fire. Holiday gatherings have an opportunity to be magical and at the same time can impact family members negatively due to past issues, unresolved hurts, and poor communication. During these trying times with Covid, families have been pushed to their limit with patience, more alone time, and financial burden to name a few. Even without a pandemic, a lot of families do not have the skills, structure, or healthy intentions going into the holiday season to help maintain clear communication, boundaries, and acceptance of one another. Without planning around these events and down time at home during this season, things can get ugly.
A possible solution is: Setting intentions.
As an individual and family, I suggest making a list of intentions for the holiday at large and in specific detail around certain days and holiday gatherings.
- Implementing nuclear family meetings once a week to check in with one another can help to let out steam or clear up confusion while also sharing appreciations of what someone has done or said.
- Discussing specific holiday family events and areas of concern or anxiety for family members can create a sense of support and strength to hold firm to boundaries and exit plans, if necessary.
- Normalizing the complexity and past history of some families, in addition to dealing with Covid, where family members may be struggling, worried, and not acting like themselves.
- Be prepared to provide a supportive ear to loved ones, however remember your intentions, boundaries and plan to leave an event, if necessary.
- Be polite but firm.
- Lastly, I want to really emphasize weekly family meetings to provide a space to share and explore this holiday season in order to reduce uncertainty and encourage family members to communicate their needs and wants during this special time.
Alyson Peña , NCC, LPCC