I am writing today reflecting on the season. Thanksgiving was a couple of weeks ago, Advent began yesterday, and Christmas will be upon us shortly. This can be a beautiful and joy filled season for many. Memories of holidays past and anticipation of the Christmas to come bring happiness, nostalgia, and sentimental feelings. For others the time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s is a time of sadness, melancholy, and even conflict with loved ones. While it is impossible to “fix” the holiday season with a few pointers I can provide some ideas as to how to get through the season with more peace and joy.
- Take the high road.Sometimes families fight over little things. We must acknowledge that the “little things” are only a symptom of bigger things, but for this time allow the little things to rise to the surface and then let them go. If there is conflict over who should host dinner, or what to serve, allow your loved ones to make the decisions and happily go along. It is not worth the headache or heartache over a ham or a turkey!
- Call a truce.This is not unrelated to taking the high road. If there is a possibility for you to step up and call a truce for Christmas dinner, or the family gift exchange, then do so. Keep it light, keep it simple, and ask for a peaceful, kind, low stress, low conflict get together. If it is not possible to ask family members for a truce then call one for yourself. Promise that you will not fight about whatever the issues are, big or small, or get pulled into conflict by others.
- Avoid controversial topics.If politics and religion get the family going, avoid those topics. If bringing up a particular family event or family member always riles people up, don’t talk about those topics. Again, if you can get everyone to agree beforehand that is ideal. If not, just make the commitment to yourself and your immediate family that you will not engage or provoke.
- Find something else to do.You might ask, if we are not going to fight, or talk about controversial topics, what can we do? There is nothing wrong with talking about the weather, sports, and other light topics. Consider planning a game or activity. I know a family who likes to play football during family get togethers. There are countless board games and card games that can be fun for the whole family. Watch a movie, there are Christmas themed movies on every imaginable channel. Do a craft, the Internet is full of crafts that would be a great distraction during a family gathering. Be creative, you might be surprised at how much you like one another when you are doing something besides fighting.
- Prepare yourself.No matter if any or none of these things is possible in your family, do prepare yourself for the family gathering. Give yourself plenty of time to get ready and to get your family ready. Rushing always causes stress. If alcohol is an issue in the family, or for you, commit to not drinking during this gathering, or don’t serve it if you are hosting. Set a time limit for your stay. If you know things are going to be stressful, create a gracious exit plan. Find a little time before the event to gather yourself. Pray, read, have a cup of tea, have a nice chat with your spouse. It doesn’t really matter what it is, do something healthy to get into a relaxed state of mind before you go, or before the family arrives.
None of these alone or together will “fix” deep-seated family issues, but trying out one or all might just help smooth things over this Christmas season.
Happy Advent and Merry Christmas!