With the arrival of the holiday season also comes opportunities to spend time with family, many of whom we only see rarely. The anticipation of being with those we love is often laced with a mixture of optimistic excitement and some degree of quiet dread.
Let’s face it, we all grow and change. When we move out from parents and create homes and lives of our own, our habits, interests, priorities and worldviews often change and grow, not always in similar directions with the home team.
Getting together for a few days, or even just a shared meal, can bring its own drama. How can we plan for happy holiday reunions without setting ourselves up for a feast of fireworks? Here are a few helpful tips to clear the path for everyone:
- If you have doubts or worries in advance, voice them. Don’t be afraid to give mom a call and ask that we not discuss politics, or that dad not lecture everyone on their calorie intake at dinner. If there is a trigger point that sets someone off, address it ahead of time and agree on a strategy to neutralize trouble before it starts.
- Manage expectations. The food may not all be perfect, or even good. The cat might walk across the table. The baby might cry uncontrollably just as you sit down. It is okay. It is not about the perfection of the dinner. It is about coming together to check in that yes, you are still there for me. We are a tribe – at least for today – and I am grateful for that.
- Don’t try to fix all that is broken. Seeing someone for only a short time when you have unfinished personal business can be challenging. Thanksgiving dinner is not the time to blurt out all that has hurt you for decades. Use your time together to acknowledge you have things to work through, and set a plan in the future to address these issues, apart from the family celebration.
- Pack your patience and your sense of humor. And don’t be afraid to use them both in abundance.
- Live in the moment. In this moment, on this day, I can share time with people who are important to me. I will not mourn who is missing, or worry about the future. I will relish this time and be grateful for what has been given to me.
By Eileen Crawford. Eileen Crawford is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in private practice in Celebration. Learn more at CounselingforFamilyHealth.com.
This article appears in the November 2019 edition of the Celebration News.