Tips for Avoiding Holiday Drama

 

 

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Watching TV and movies often gives us the idea of a perfect holiday where everyone gets along and it’s all joyful and peaceful.  This is very rarely the case in real life.  I’ve complied some tips to help you avoid the almost inevitable  holiday drama

 

1. Don’t expect to heal old wounds

Don’t use holidays as a time  to repair old childhood wounds, with difficult family, keep conversation simple. Don’t  get drawn into their drama. Don’t apologize or defend yourself.  Stay near the people you like and that like you and  don’t forget to breathe.

2. Don’t expect people to change

Don’t expect people to be any different from who they are, whatever or whoever irritated you last year, will probably do so this year.   Hoping people will be different this year just sets you up for disappointment.

3. Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries

If someone tries to push your buttons, remind yourself not to personalize it. How people act and behave is a reflection of who they are and has nothing to do with you.

4. Plan ahead

Set limits ahead of time about things like how long you might stay at a family function.  Try and have some go-to coping strategies in mind before you get there.

5. Control what you can control

Whether your family has  hurt you or regularly offends you,  try to use holiday time to become an even stronger person.  Remember no one can touch your thoughts, so think what you want, laugh to yourself and give yourself compassion.

6. Look for joyful moments

Remember this is real life not a  movie.  Throw away the idea of achieving perfection, but create moments that are special to you.

Talking About Hate and Violence With Your Children

 

 

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It seems like on an almost daily basis a new major  tragic event takes place in the world.  Remember children are aware of what is happening in the world around them, parents shouldn’t assume that children are unaffected by global events. When frightening and violent incidents occur, such as school shootings, both children and adults may experience a range of emotions including fear, confusion, sadness and anger.

To counteract fear and give reassurance, parents, teachers and day care providers can provide opportunities for children to express how they feel and channel their feelings into positive actions.

. Prepare

In order to provide the reassurance and guidance children need, adults should first come to terms with their own feelings. Explore and discuss with other adults your own feelings and perceptions. You should also  recognize that your past experiences may influence how you look at current situations.

Be Alert

Be alert to signs of upset in children. These signs may include withdrawal, lack of interest, acting out, fear of school or other activities, or anything that is different  from the child’s usual behavior.

Listen

  • Listen carefully in order to learn what  your children know and are thinking.
  • Treat all children’s questions with respect and seriousness; do not ignore or dismiss children.
  • Clarify children’s questions so that you can understand what is being asked, what has led to the question and how much information a child wants. A child who asks: “Why were those people  attacked?”  may be asking, “Could I or someone I love be hurt in an attack?” A good way to clarify what a child wants to know is to repeat the question to the child; for example, “You’ve been thinking about what happened to those people and why they were attacked? In this way a child can say, “Yes, that is what I’ve been thinking,” or can correct what you said in order to redirect the conversation to something he or she wants to discuss.
  • Sometimes, without repeating the exact words, it is helpful to reflect what you think a child is feeling, as a way of giving a child the opportunity to confirm that you have understood, or to clarify. For example, you can say: “It sounds as if you’re afraid that something like this might happen again.”

Reassure

  • Review the facts of what actually happened.
  • Reassure children in age-appropriate ways that they are safe. When talking to toddlers, responses can be simple and direct: “I love you and I will always do everything I can to make you safe.”
  • Let children know that many people and organizations are working to make us safe.
  • Reassure children that while there are people who do things that are hard to understand,  the vast majority of the time, we are safe.

Be Honest

  • Answer questions as clearly and honestly as you can, using developmentally appropriate language and definitions. If you don’t know the answer to a child’s question, say so and make a plan to try to find out.
  • Correct yourself if you give incomplete or inaccurate information. Don’t be afraid of making a mistake; when we admit our mistakes, adults model for children how to admit their own mistakes. Be direct about acknowledging mistakes and avoid defensiveness; say, “I made a mistake.”
  • Acknowledge that there are people who hate other people, and that hateful actions can be threatening.

Share Your Perceptions

  • Share your perceptions and feelings but try to avoid conveying hopelessness. Without diminishing the seriousness of a situation, it is important to keep perspective and convey it to children.
  • Avoid giving young children more specific detail than necessary. Be careful not to frighten children. Limit children’s exposure to media coverage of violent events.

Take Action

  • Children need to know that people are not powerless in the face of hate; there are many things children and adults can do.
  • Have regular discussions about ways people can address hate. Brainstorm ways to address these concerns at home, in school and in the community. Examples include speaking out against name-calling, making friends with people who are different from you, learning about many cultural groups and exploring ways to increase intergroup understanding. Discuss specific steps to make these things happen.
  • Help children understand that if hateful words go unchallenged, they can escalate to acts of physical violence. Discuss how hate behaviors usually begin with unkind words. Discuss and practice ways children can challenge name-calling and bullying. Even preschool children can learn to say, “Don’t call him that; that’s not his name!” or “Don’t call her that; she doesn’t like that!” or “Don’t call me that; it’s not fair!”
  • Help children understand that sometimes it might not be safe for them to intervene; teach children to seek adult assistance when someone is being harassed or bullied.
  • Help your children feel good about themselves so that they learn to see themselves as people who can contribute to creating a better world.

Coping with being alone for the holidays

Many people find themselves alone and without family and friends to share the holidays. This can often lead to feeling sad and depressed but there are ways to alleviate these feelings and have a wonderful holiday.

No matter the reason that you’re alone for the holidays, you can make it a wonderful holiday season. First, make your time alone special. Then, when you’re through with personal time, pick some activities that will surround you with others.

A little time to yourself is often very rare. When you have some, it is something to cherish. Forget about what’s “supposed” to happen and that you’re suppossed to be surrounded by others. Remember that many people are doing what’s expected, and probably running themselves a little ragged. They may actually wish they had some time alone. Once you’ve put aside the weight of expectations, consider how you might treat yourself to some special time.

Get out, go somewhere. Find places that will stimulate and amuse you. Museums, festivals or streets decorated for the holidays might recharge you.
Take on a home project.
Rediscover an old creative talent.
Treat yourself to a personal spa. Spoil yourself with comfort. Read a novel. Take a candlelight bubble bath. Curl up on the couch with hot chocolate, a warm blanket and a movie.
Call or write to family and friends. Just because you’re not with them doesn’t mean you can’t make contact. But plan your calls, so you don’t go broke. And make sure the calls are a nice diversion for the day, not the centerpiece of it. You should enjoy the moments of contact, not dwell on the fact that you’re not with family and friends.

Make plans to be around other people when that alone-time limit comes. There are many activities to do and places to go where you can share the holiday spirit with others.

Return to the real holiday tradition by helping others. When you volunteer, you receive two big rewards. First, you’ll be surrounded by people — by volunteers and staff who share your spirit of giving and by those you are helping. Second, it’s good for the soul. Helping others in need is fulfilling.

Do something with friends. Many people don’t think of it. Most of us have been conditioned to think of holidays as time for family only. We’re not used to thinking of this as a time to gather with friends. If you’re on your own, a few friends might be, too. Get in touch with them, and make some plans. If you’re single, look for a singles organization.

Take advantage of what being alone during this time can bring you: a chance for some quality personal time, and a chance to get out, meet some new people and help those in need.

When You Dislike Your Partner’s Parents

When we commit to someone,  we are  usually not only agreeing to commit to them, but to what and who they bring with them.   Family members are  usually part of what a partner brings to a committed, long-term relationship.   Unfortunately although we can choose our partner, we can’t choose their family.

Building a relationship with a long-term partner’s family can be difficult for all involved. Everyone involved is adjusting:  parents are trying to adjust to a new relationship dynamic with their child and build a relationship with their child’s partner. The couple is establishing and strengthening their own relationship and making their own life choices. If these choices conflict with what the parents wanted  for their child, the parents may see  this as a rejection.  Parents who miss their child and want to have more of a relationship may seem pushy or over-involved to the child’s partner.   There are also many other reasons that can  complicate this  relationship.

In my experience as a therapist, strained relationships with a partner’s family members is very common.   If you find building a relationship with your partner’s parents to be challenging, or if you just don’t like your partner’s parents, the following tips and considerations may be helpful for you:

  • Discuss the level of involvement you would like to have with your partner’s family.  Do you want to see them every week or only on holidays.   If you choose to have children, what type of involvement should they have with them? If you and your partner disagree, you can talk through the reasons and try to reach a compromise.
  • Work on building a positive relationship and focusing on the good. It can be hard to relate to someone if you don’t know them well. Try to have more shared experiences and plan activities together. Try seeking advice on small things, like which tablecloth is best or what dishes to use at a celebration.
  • This is a long-term relationship, so it is likely worth investing in. In most areas of life, it’s fairly easy to minimize contact with people we don’t like. However, in a marriage or other committed partnership, it may be worth trying to reach common ground.
  • Not all events have to include all the members of the family. If it remains difficult—for whatever reason—for you to enjoy or even handle seeing certain members of the family, try instead to create (or allow) opportunities for them to see your partner or their grandchildren.
  • Don’t force your partner or children to cut off their relationships. You may dislike your partner’s parents. But allowing your children to spend time with their grandparents may really benefit them (and their grandparents). Preventing your children from building this relationship can be a huge loss (unless you have reason to believe they are in danger). And if your partner wishes to spend more time with their parents (with or without you) and you prevent them from doing so, conflict and resentment often will take place.
  • Set boundaries. Doing this early on in your relationship is likely to make the adjustment easier for everyone involved. Assuring your partner’s parents they are an important part of the family may help them agree more easily to the boundaries you set without feeling as if you have cut them off.
  • Communicate clearly. If you usually only  communicate with your partner’s family through your partner but find things often become muddled, try speaking directly to them instead. This can  help prevent miscommunication and misunderstanding and will keep your partner from being caught in the middle.

Dealing with your partner’s parents is often  one of the most challenging parts of your relationship, but if possible try to make your interactions with them as pleasant as possible.