The secret for healthy family holidays is to be prepared, and to be gentle with one another.
Think of some possibilities that you can use to start conversations. The goal is to keep it kind, not just for yourself, but others too. Oftentimes, these kinds of topics are neutral, trying to get to know people better, aside from the areas of differences. Try to turn towards family members with curiosity, rather than turn away from them due to disparity.
Also, it may be helpful to consider what to do if you start to feel uncomfortable.
Think about where in your body you feel it and how you will recognize it?
Next, breathe and remember who you are.
If you are uncomfortable, pause. Take a deep breath, and clear your brain from thoughts. And then make a choice that fits your values. Most of us want to do what is best for our families and ourselves, rather than cause discomfort or arguments. Ask yourself, “How do I want this interaction to end?” Use that as a guide for what to say. If you aren’t sure, breathe a few more times before you respond.
Finally, have a plan on how you choose to act.
It is more than ok to say, “I’ll get back to you on that.” It is also okay to excuse yourself for a restroom break or a glass of punch. You may even give yourself permission to go for a quick walk. (Pets are a great excuse for this). Is there somewhere you can go if you feel sad enough to cry or angry enough to tantrum? How will you handle it?
What’s the plan if someone says something that is against your religion, your values, your beliefs? Right the plan down, and discuss with your immediate family members so they can support you. Oftentimes, by just planning, we don’t need to use these tools. But, it still never hurts.
Finally, consider what you are grateful for.
Try to find three things that day that you enjoy. It could be the food, the way grandma scoops in with presents and cookies, or it could be the games later in the evening. Hold on to those things, and share them with others if appropriate.
Here’s wishing you a Happy Holiday Season.
Possible Discussion Questions for Holiday Gatherings.
What was your favorite class in high school?
What do you remember about previous houses you’ve lived in?
Has anything ever happened at a family event that you’ll never forget?
What is your favorite movie?
What is your favorite book?
What was your favorite movie this year?
What bones have you broken? Any this year?
What are your best memories of holidays?
What is one thing most people don’t know about you?
What lesson have your learned this year?
What three adjectives would your grandparents use to describe you?
What did/do your grandparents do with you that you loved?
What was your favorite family pet as a kid?
Do your pets know any tricks now?
What is your favorite musical instrument?
What was your favorite cartoon as a child?
What is your favorite board game?
What’s your favorite app?
What was your favorite vacation and why?
Are you taking any vacations this year?
Author: Cindy Anderson
Dr. Anderson is a Board Certified Clinical Child Psychologist. She also owns Hope Springs Behavioral Consultants. Dr. Anderson has achieved a high degree of specialization in working with children and families. She holds a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and completed APA Accredited internship and postdoctoral training in Clinical Child and Pediatric Psychology. She prides herself as a life-long student and tries to learn something new every day.
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