By Maud Purcell
Are you naively entering the holiday season while “visions of sugarplums dance in your head”? Are you dreaming of idyllic family get-togethers, knowing full well that your holidays with kin haven’t been harmonious in seasons past?
The problem with the holiday season is that we foolishly hope for a better outcome each time we gather with family, even though we’re approaching it the same old way. This expectation is a set-up for disappointment, and for the onset of an “emotional hangover” and even guilt in the aftermath of the holiday season. Here are some emotional traps to which we unwittingly fall prey:
The great news is that you can make this holiday season the most harmonious and rewarding one ever. Here’s how you can start --
1.) Admit to yourself that your family (and that includes you) is imperfect, and that years of ignoring this reality have only brought you sadness, anger and frustration.
2.) Think carefully about the specific situations that typically push your emotional buttons, then, create exit strategies. For example --
3.) Bring along a ”family holiday survival kit,” which may include interesting topics of conversation to use as needed (but please avoid religion and politics!), favorite movies and games, and a list of potential activities -- including walks, museum hopping, shopping or sightseeing. Volunteering together at a homeless shelter or soup kitchen can bring depth and perspective to your relationships. Let your mind run wild; anything that keeps the family active and preferably outside of old familiar settings can provide an opportunity for positive and meaningful interaction. And when you are actually doing something, there’s much less room for interpersonal conflict to arise.
Most importantly, prepare yourself for the worst. Although this may sound pessimistic, it will allow you to be pleasantly surprised when with the help of the suggestions above, you wind up having the best family holiday season ever!
Maud Purcell, MSW, LCSW, CEAP, is a skilled and seasoned psychotherapist, as well as a trained Coach and Corporate Consultant. She is the owner of Maud Purcell & Associates Inc., and she writes a regular column for The Stamford Advocate, Greenwich Time, The Danbury Times and CT Post Newspapers.