It’s Time to Prepare for the Holidays

Normally this space is reserved for advice for parents with teens; this week will be different. I’m speaking to adults who plan to spend the holidays with their parents and siblings. Although we’re still over a month away from Thanksgiving, it’s not too early to start preparing.

You and your teen
Surviving the holidays
By STEVE DEBENEDETTI-EMANUEL
Land Park News Family Columnist
steve@rivercitycounseling.com

Recently, my client “Dave” has been worried about his yearly visit to Southern California. He and his wife and kids are spending Christmas with his parents and siblings and staying for a few days afterwards. As Dave is a chef, the unspoken expectation is that he’s going to prepare a lavish feast. And for the last eight years, he has. While others relax, he spends the entire day cooking, getting little help from anyone but his mother and wife. By the time the celebration starts, he’s resentful, exhausted and in no mood to celebrate.

And others fulfill their roles. His brother socializes, doesn’t even offer to help, and drinks too much. His sister snaps at everyone and leaves in a huff. His father tells loud, inappropriate jokes that make others uncomfortable.

Dave wants things to be different this year. He has already told his parents that he’s taking the year off from cooking. He has suggested either a potluck or going to a restaurant. He has also made plans to take his wife and kids to Disneyland for a couple of days. He then plans to return to his parents’ house for their last night before heading home.

Just as Dave is trying a new strategy this year, each of us has to figure out what to do differently, to increase the chance of enjoying the holidays with our families. Here are some thoughts to keep in mind as you prepare to go.

It’s OK to break lifelong patterns of behavior. There’s nothing like time spent with family for you to suddenly find yourself talking and acting like you did when you were a teenager living at home. When you realize you’re doing this, gently remind yourself that you are now an adult, and as long as you aren’t rude or inconsiderate, you are free to behave however you want.

Be aware that your siblings and parents are also likely to repeat their lifelong patterns. The brother who has always said mean things in order to knock you down will probably try to do the same this year. Remind yourself not to take his bait. Instead, take a deep breath and respond to him as calmly and kindly as possible. Eventually, he’ll lose interest and pester others.

Despite the inevitable pressure to be together for EVERY MINUTE of your visit, take breaks from your family. Be it spending an evening with a friend, heading away overnight, or just taking a walk around the block after dinner, if you spend some time away from your family you’re more likely to enjoy your time with them.

Regardless of what you plan to do differently, be aware that you will probably feel the pressure to act like you always have. If you stick to your guns and do what makes you (and your spouse and children) happy, rather than giving in and feeling badly afterwards, it’s likely that you’ll leave feeling satisfied and (almost) ready for next year.

One Response to It’s Time to Prepare for the Holidays
  1. Neshel
    April 10, 2013 | 3:57 am

    It was an enlightening arctile, since most people think that a sibling would be happy to see the older one go off to college, so he would be the king of the roost so I guess there is a lot of love between siblings even if they are arguing all the time. Like the idea of all the family taking the sibling together to college and also visiting ..

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