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Hone for the Holidays How to Transform Your Family Dynamics

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Steve Truitt, Life Coach & Founder, Parent Parachute

By Steve Truitt

When Adam Sandler was still on Saturday Night Live back in the 90s, he did a fantastic bit during the Weekend Update News in which he had his father record the appearance on the VCR because he wouldn’t be able to make it home that year for Thanksgiving.  He brought out a huge plate of food and began to eat and mimic listening to the people around the table as if he were there.  It started off tame, but pretty soon it got contentious:  “No Ma, I didn’t say that… Ma, she’s lying!  Dad stay out of this… no I won’t shut up, Dad, you’ve been keeping me down too long!  The tide’s turning old man!”  At this point he burst into tears and screamed  “I’M GAY!” 

It was hysterical for a late night comedy show, but, sadly, all too common in families around the country. 

So how is it that the season of celebration, joy, giving and family has become the time of the year that is most stressful?   The answer is in Sandler’s Thanksgiving piece:  He knew what was coming and he was waiting for it. 

As family members, we know each other better than anyone else – foibles, flaws, failures and more.  And the hope that maybe this year things will be different turns to anger, distance and resentment when that one button gets pushed and nothing has changed at all.  Even in the closest of families – the least dysfunctional – expectations of unity, peace and holiday spirit can be instantly dashed at the moment a family member’s annoying habit poisons our perfect holiday scenario. 

Here are the three things you can do this holiday season to hone your family relationship skills and make your holiday gatherings a more positive experience:

  1. Limit your exposure:  If you know that a certain amount of time spent with a family member gets your blood boiling, then simply plan to spend less time with them.  Get in, get out and get on with your life.
  2. Practice forgiveness:  If you’re carrying any unresolved resentment into a particular situation, you’re planning to have a fight.  You’re not going to fix or change this person – especially not during the holiday. So let it go, forgive their past offenses – and suspend your own judgment of them – and see if you can remember what you love about them.  Focus on their good attributes. Let’s face it – who among us is perfect?
  3. Visualize a great time:  Before you spend time with your friends or relatives, take five minutes and visualize yourself driving or flying home from the visit feeling good about it and happy that you spent time with them.  Take that peaceful energy into the situation and you will look for ways to create it while you’re there.


We can’t choose our families, but we can choose to accept them for who they are, and allow ourselves to be who we are at the same time.  Your holiday is not recorded on videotape – at least not in its entirety!  It’s yours to create -- any way you choose.  This year choose to be the change you want to see in the family.  Be forgiveness, be joy… BE MERRY! 

Happy Holidays!

Steve Truitt is a life coach and the founder of Parent Parachute. His radio show is "The Bottom Line," which can be heard every Wednesday on Healthy Life Radio. He is the author of Stop Waiting For Permission! His website is www.stevetruittcoaching.com.

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