Do you dread the holidays because… You are you an adult who is single and your family and friends wish you were happily coupled? Are you a parent of an adult child wishing you had grandbabies? Every time you are gathered with family do you still feel judged for the life choices you made? Time spent with families can be a big stressor during the holidays sometimes even more than the hurried schedules, gifts to buy and wrap, food to cook, and the money crunch that can come with this time of year.
Family relationships differ from family to family. However, every family does have their own unique relationship dynamics or situations that could cause some family members to dread the holidays. In order to make the best of your time together it may be wise to let go of past conflicts and the expectations unfulfilled and simply enjoy the time you do have together, no matter how short.
We may have family members going through something challenging in their life that they really do not feel like discussing over the holidays. For some, anticipating questions like: “Where are you going to college next year?” “Anyone special in your life?” or “When will there be babies?” can cause great anxiety leading up to and through the holiday season. You may feel that these are harmless questions to ask, yet to the person, they may be their worst fear.
For someone who may have been trying to have a baby for months or even years, that question is just another dagger in their heart. They too, may wish to be celebrating the season with a child(ren). There may be a medical reason that your family member has not had children or the timing may not be right for them. It is unlikely that they are purposefully withholding grandchildren.
A similar situation could be true for the single family member. By asking about a significant other, it may appear that you are devaluing the life they are living because they are not with someone. They may be perfectly happy on their own. Or, they may wish to be with someone special and seeing family members and friends paired up could already be difficult enough over the holidays. Asking inquiring questions about their love life could make them uncomfortable.
For some, the holidays can highlight a difficult year. The loss of a job or loved one, depression, or any variety of life events may have caused a challenging year. Don’t treat them as if they’re broken or fragile. Be sensitive and empathetic, but try to treat them like everyone else, so they do not feel singled out.
So whether your family resembles the Rockwells or the Griswolds, remember what is important over the holidays and enjoy the time that you have, with the people that you care about. Focus on all that you do have rather than what is missing. Respect the choices that loved ones have made in their life and celebrate where they are today. Be generous and compassionate with each person, even that family member that tends to rub you the wrong way at family gatherings. They could be experiencing their own challenges whether you know about them or not.