The holiday season is again upon us. While sitting in the coffee shop talking with some of the regulars, we started discussing our holiday plans and some of the ensuing hassles that making plans with families can cause. Knowing that we aren't the only ones going through this, I thought it was time to revisit my series on holiday hassles.
It is hard to believe that the holidays are already upon us! It seems like just yesterday the kids were starting school. For many, the holidays are a time for eager anticipation of spending time with family. But for some, just the thought of being in the same room with family and in-laws is enough to cause a nervous breakdown!
Negative family patterns can make holidays a hassle for some families. Over the next couple of days, I will be discussing some of the most common scenarios that cause conflict and hassles during the holidays along with some insights and tips on how to cope. So let's get started:
Scenario 1 - Who's House? A common dilemma that most couples face is where to celebrate the holiday. In most cases, we prefer to spend the holiday with OUR family of origin. Some couples take turns at each set of parents house. Others go to both houses on the same day.
Whose house to go to can be complicated if you have a parent or in-law that expects you to always come to their gathering. Some of us are fortunate to have parents who understand the increased demands by other family members and leave the choice to attend their gathering as an open invitation with no strings attached, no guilt, no snide comments. Other parents load on the guilt causing the couple to give in and attend the holiday often at the expense of the other family.
The thing about guilt is we have to give ourselves permission to feel it (more on guilt in a later post). If you have made a choice to alternate holidays between families to be equitable with your time and continue to receive comments intended to cause guilty feelings, realize that this is often more about the guilt inducers need for control or insecurity about not being as valued.
So here are some tips and insights on how to deal with this holiday dilemma:
- Re-evaluate your holiday plans. Have you been fair and equitable with your time between the two families? If you can honestly say that you have been fair in your time commitments to each family, you have no reason to feel guilty.
- Talk it out first. Make sure you and your spouse are in agreement with your family plans. Making a commitment to attend a family function without your spouses agreement is a disaster in the making. We all want to be involved with decision making when it comes to our time and commitments. Failing to discuss your plans with your spouse can lead them to feel resentful, hurt and not valued. Remember who you will be going home with at the end of the day!
- Consider your children's needs. Take time as a couple to discuss your children's needs. If you have very young children, going to two separate homes for dinner may be too much for them. Given the enormous amount of packing, e.g., diaper bags, bouncey seats, etc., it might be too much for you too! Consider what you and your children can reasonably handle on the holiday and let that guide your decision making. Holidays are meant to be enjoyable experiences, not stressful.
- Discuss your plans with both sets of parents. Having considered the points above, talk to both sets of parents about your holiday plans. If any are having difficulty with the thought that you will not be spending the holiday with them, validate and discuss their feelings. Point out that you are doing your best to make sure that both families are getting equal time while taking the needs of your children into consideration. Let your parent know that you understand that they are disappointed. You could suggest a separate family feast before or after the holiday if possible so that they family can be together.
- Let go of the guilt. It is easy to fall prey to guilt around the holidays. Some parents are PROS at laying it on. Remember what I said above, it is usually more about them than it is about you. A part of being a parent is being selfless. While understanding of their feelings is needed, there comes a point where they need to let go (as hard as that is for some). A parent who cannot is putting their needs before those of their child. Remember, you are in complete control of whether or not you feel guilty.
So how does your family deal with this issue? Have you been able to find a compromise that works for both families? Please share what has worked (or not worked!) for you and yours. Next time, we will discuss the need to have your OWN family time to start your holiday traditions. Until then!