Media images of the holidays are often exaggerated and, before you know it, you’re trying to conform to unrealistic ideals. Combined with the added pressures and demands on your time, this can lead to overload. Just remember that nothing is perfect.
Now that the holiday season is swiftly approaching, you may be wondering if your dysfunctional family dynamics will surface as soon as you get together. Are you worried that your mother’s inquisitive nature will scare off the first girlfriend your son’s had in years? Or that your new daughter-in-law will think less of you because you didn’t ask her to bring the dessert? The following common sense strategies will help you create a more serene holiday season for you and your family:
1. Realize that the anticipatory anxiety you are experiencing is common. Financial burdens around gift giving and extra chores when entertaining can make you feel apprehensive and stressed. Accept this as a normal reaction.
2. Make sure that you have realistic expectations and don’t take everything personally. Some family members may be struggling with financial, business or marital issues that have nothing to do with you.
3. You don’t have to be all things to all people all the time. If your favorite aunt doesn’t get along with her ex-husband’s new wife, don’t invite them to dinner. It will make it easier for everyone to have an open mind and an accepting heart.
4. Put aside differences and avoid hot button issues. Sibling rivalry and unfinished family business are bound to surface. Despite how hard it may be, go for the higher ground and walk away from misunderstandings. But agree to finish the conversation at a later time.
5. Conversely, with a relationship that matters to you, bury the hatchet. If in the past you have stifled your feelings and then blown up later, don’t let your emotions fester. Admit the part you play in the conflict, privately, and deal with it.
6. If there is tension in the room, take the focus away from the specific toward the abstract. For example, talk about the value of apologizing for some wrongdoing. Then encourage others to discuss how this kind of quality has enhanced their other personal relationships.
7. Consider what you love about your family and let them know how grateful you are they’re a part of your life. Be sure to point out their positive qualities and personal strengths rather than focusing on the negatives.
8. Practice letting go of childhood pain and longings when family members are not with you in person but in your memories. And realize that having feelings of gratitude and forgiveness are a gift you give yourself.
9. Be a role model for your children. Teach them by example as you take care of your aging parents, lend a helping hand or work on having a positive attitude.
10. If you feel ready to pass the baton, do it. Encourage your kidults as they preserve the old family traditions. Express your appreciation and support as they create new holiday customs of their own.
In the midst of taking care of your family during this hectic season, pay attention to your own wellbeing. Arrange to plan ahead and encourage others to help out. If it’s in line with your values, put the focus on giving as well as receiving. Encourage social responsibility by visiting an elderly uncle or volunteering at a local food bank. And include fun, humor and laughter in all that you do. During the holidays, while we all wish for peace on earth and peace in our families, we shouldn’t overlook the importance of peace of mind.
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