“It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” but is it?
I love the snow, hot cocoa, mulled wine, and celebrating the end of the year with friends, but the undeniable element of stress that comes along with the holiday season can sometimes put a damper on my spirits.
For those of us with blended or broken families, the time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s can be filled with uneasiness. With your friends donning their matchy pajamas and drinking cups of Christmas cheer, the discomfort that often comes with the holiday seems so unwelcome and unnatural. Walking the fine line between prioritizing your own happiness and appeasing the needs of multiple parties just doesn’t feel very merry and bright.
I have divorced parents and, as you might expect, issues regarding where my sister and I will spend Christmas morning, or Christmas eve etc. always are a topic of conversation. Although they try to be understanding of the other's time, their emotions too often get in the way and prevent smooth scheduling.
Regardless of your specific family situation, here are a few tips to get you through the holidays as smoothly as possible:
1) You cannot make everyone happy. Set boundaries.
This one can be very difficult for the "people pleaser" personality. In the past, I would try to accommodate everything that everyone wanted to do. This would leave me driving back and forth on Christmas Eve and Day, frazzled, not really getting to spend time with anyone. Running around, explaining (cautiously) that I needed to "go see the other parent now" left me completely emotionally exhausted. Although you want to make everyone happy... you won't, so you can't worry about it. After all, this is your holiday too! So, look out for yourself and your happiness.
2) Create a schedule and set expectations early
This is the BEST way to prevent hurt feelings. I used to avoid making plans around the holidays because I was simply trying to avoid upsetting anyone. This inevitably created many more hurt feelings because both my parents would assume that I was spending Christmas Day with them. Since cutting myself in two isn't really my idea of a happy holiday, I would end up having to disappoint at least one of them.
The past few holidays, I have planned out my schedule in advance, sometimes opting for a family-free holiday.
3) Create new traditions
Creating new traditions is important for every young adult, especially those of us who come from a difficult family background. These new traditions can be as simple as presents on Christmas Eve instead of Christmas Day. Or, if you're needing some time away from the family drama, you can transform your holiday into a celebration with friends. This past Thanksgiving a group of friends and I crammed 18 people and a dog into a two person NYC apartment-- we had a blast. Yes, it was difficult to explain to my parents that I wasn't spending Thanksgiving with either of them and of course I missed them, but I needed to do what was best for me in that moment. I told them in advance, and I did my best to express that it had nothing to do with them and guess what? it was one of my best Thanksgivings yet!
4) Look for Joyous moments
Every family has its problems but remember to take the time to appreciate the little things about the holidays. A good drink? Nice music? Some aptly timed snow?
We are all have an idea of what holiday celebrations are "supposed" to look like. We probably even have friends that have this picture-esque set up. That being said, sometimes the best way to survive the holidays is to create your own version of what they are supposed to look like.