Spending time with the family can be triggering and for many people, the Christmas holidays can be the worst part of the year.
Don’t know if you recognise yourself in this, but my family brings out the best and the worst in me. Currently, I have my family visiting me in Barbados and I see myself turning into a teenager. We can have emotions come out that don’t come out other times of the year, or rarely. And when we start using all different ways of dealing with those emotions, we can slip back into old patterns.
I personally feel like a powerless bystander watching a movie where the grown-up protagonist acts like a spoiled thirteen-year-old and not like somebody who teaches emotional intelligence and helps people develop emotional maturity. That grown-up protagonist is me.
There is a societal expectation that we spend time with the family even if we don’t get along with them, and there is generally pressure from the family, as well. Don’t get me wrong, spending the holidays with my family was my choice, and I love having them here with me. Watching my six-year-old nephew discovering and enjoying the ocean and everything that this beautiful island has to offer is pure joy for me.
But whatever we do, we are always the adult child at home, which can be challenging.
Spending time together as a family can bring up old feelings, triggers, and old patterns. And on top of everything, there is the expectation around Christmas time for it to be peaceful and loving.
So how do I deal with the situation? I made sure to set boundaries in advance by informing my family what days I would be working or surfing or doing yoga, etc. We ensure that we all have time to be alone if that’s what we need. This means that when we are together, we can fully enjoy being together without any resentment. We love playing cards, cooking meals, and going for a sunset drink. We try to encourage everybody to say what they want to do that day or what they prefer not to do. There might be times when we have separate activities and that’s okay.
When it comes to chores like cooking the festive meal, try sharing most tasks and encourage everybody to give a hand. You can also agree in advance to avoid certain conversations around the table if you know that discussing for example politics, COVID or diets can cause arguments.
You may find things to do that connect everybody e.g. watching a movie, playing cards or board games, playing musical instruments (if you come from a musically inclined family), or maybe watching old family footage together.
If all fails, and you need to take time out, go for a walk or retreat back to your room for a nap.
However, you choose to deal with the upcoming festive period, just remember that it is only once a year and you may not have everybody around the table together next year. Unfortunately, we only have the photo of my Dad and the photo of my beloved Grandma joining us this Christmas. Remember to cherish the moments together, but don’t feel guilty for needing time to yourself, too.