For most people, holidays like Christmas, thanksgiving, and new years are a source of joy. They include festive traditions, gifts, and time off work to relax. Holidays can also be a time for family.
Many people don’t get to see their family year-round. Holidays are a convenient time to gather. People travel to see and catch up with their parents, siblings, and grandparents on all the past year’s events.
In many cases, this is an uplifting and relaxing period. In other cases, though, family can make the holidays unenjoyable and a source of emotional turmoil. A large number of people grow up in less-than-ideal family situations. Going back to that can bring back negative memories and induce negative feelings.
It can be incredibly stressful to decide between seeing people who have caused you pain or leaving what you know and have done for so long. If you have to make this choice, here are a few things to consider in your decision-making.
1. Remember That You Are Allowed To Say No
Regardless of the situation, you can put yourself first and say no. If a family member has caused you pain, you are not obligated to see them. This applies even if they are terminally ill, living alone, or remorseful of their actions.
Nothing they do will erase the pain or the experiences you now have. You don’t owe them your heart or happiness, even if others (or yourself) are telling you otherwise. You always have the right to say no.
2. Set Boundaries
If you decide to attend a family function, it’s good to know what you will and won’t tolerate. This can range from passive-aggressive behavior to verbal abuse.
You should also decide what you will do in the case of said behavior. You can choose to leave if thiy violate your boundaries. You can also take note of the breach and keep it in mind for future interactions.
Do your best to stick to your boundaries, as they are a great way to protect yourself from further harm.
3. Take Another Person With You
One way to make visiting family easier is by taking someone you trust. This person can be a spouse or close friend. Doing this can make interacting with your family less uncomfortable. It can also make family members think twice before starting situations.
Beforehand, provide whoever you’re taking with information on the situation. You should also check to see they are okay and comfortable with everything.
4. Make Your Own Traditions
Having traditions you’ve maintained since childhood can be great, but making your own can be just as enjoyable. It’s an opportunity to give yourself some memorable holiday experiences. The best thing is that since you’re creating customs, you can choose whatever you want.
Some ideas of traditions you can start are scrapbook making, traveling, and hosting gatherings. You can also include your spouse, children, and close friends in these traditions.
Abusive and difficult family members can make holidays a challenging time of year. Keeping your best interests in mind and making decisions that protect and benefit you will help you through them.
If people tell you you’re being selfish, look more closely at those relationship and if you need that person in your life. It’s not selfish to manage your mental health. It’s self care.
It’s also good to remember that holidays don’t have to include your biological family to be enjoyable. Most of us don’t have a choice when it comes to who’s in our biological family, but we can choose people who respect us and bring us joy to create a new “family” for ourselves. Partners and close friends can also provide delightful company.
The holiday season is just beginning, so do what you can to protect yourself over the next six weeks. There are many tools on this blog that can help, like naming your emotions and radical acceptance.
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