Keep Your Sugar-Plum From Turning to Prunes # 2 – Family Gatherings

“…and visions of sugarplums danced in their heads.” My question for you is: Have your sugarplums turned to prunes? Does the thought of being with family members bring you a sense of joy and hope or gloom, despair and a desire to be alone in a cave? 

The holidays are a traditional time of family gatherings. Depending on the family dynamics the get together could have the look and feel of a Hallmark Channel Movie or the Griswold family in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Either way there are some practical things you can do

If you are going to be spending time with family, be intentional about building in breaks for the family. The holidays can be a very special time for families to be together, but you do not need to overdose.

Give yourself permission to have an imperfect holiday. Remember, Jesus was born in a stall in a barn (cave). He came into this world in a place filled the odors of any farm.  He had no tree, no lights, and no Christmas buffet. For those of you who grew up on a ranch, or have worked with livestock you know all too well what a barn smells like. If you have ever mucked out a stable, you can get an idea of what the barn was like that night that baby Jesus came into the world.

Think before you speak. Try to avoid “foot in mouth disease.” Make a list of hot topics to avoid. If you are feeling down please consider ruling out all discussions about your job, personal life, health, religion, politics, the past, the future, and most often the present.  Topics that are usually safe: the weather, sports, gardening and the other person’s life, and pleasant memories. Use your words to help others feel good about themselves-you could be surprised how much better it will make you feel.

Look for the good in friends, neighbors and relatives. It is easy to focus on annoying behaviors. This year try to find something good in those who annoy you.

Stay loose, be flexible. 21st century families are always changing due to job situations, childbirth, illness, job demands, divorce and the return of work for former stay-at-home moms.  Tradition does not have to mean rigidity.

Mom and Dad – let your married kids develop their own holiday traditions – no guilt trips.

For stepfamilies – gather on neutral ground — meet at a place that belongs to no one – include everyone that you can, and avoid posturing and fighting. Put your kid’s needs first after a divorce. Do not make you kids feel responsible for making your holiday special. Help them figure out ways to enjoy time with each parent and let them know that you will be okay.

Next installment: Coping Strategies for the Recently Divorced or Separated/

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