Families and Christmas - having the best Christmas you can
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Irena Adelman MBACP (Accred)
4th December, 2008
This can be an intense and demanding time of the year. It can be a time when we experience a particular sense of joy, warmth and connectedness. And a time of sadness, loneliness, disappointment and conflicted feelings. We need to find ways to support each other and ourselves to have the best experience we can.
There can be huge expectations and demands, it’s as if a light shines on our relationships and us and they are crystallized for a moment “the good, the bad and the ugly”.
We are dealing with the differing expectations and assumptions we have of celebrations, our family, giving and receiving. Every family has its own history and set of rules about how they celebrate and behave together.
Over time families develop patterns of behaviour and members of a family may have particular roles. The roles can represent and reinforce a set of rules and values a family has. As time passes we grow older and people join and leave families. People change and so do their needs and desires. You might find the role you are playing is out dated and no longer fits who you are or what you want. For celebrations to be fulfilling to everyone families and the individuals in them need to be aware of differences and find ways to respect and adapt to them.
Christmas and New Year’s are rituals of our time and they are shaped by the past and continually reshaped in the present. They evolve with time. We can be creative when thinking about making new rituals and family celebrations.
Thinking about what you want, what worked and did not work in previous celebrations can be helpful. Communicating clearly, being flexible and prepared to compromise creates possibilities for change. It is also important to feel safe enough to take a risk in sharing your thoughts and feelings.
The planning process can be as important as the event and is a very significant part of the process. It allows time for working through issues and helps you define and refine what your expectations are and what you all would like.
A key in helping ourselves deal with negotiation at this (and in fact any) time of the year is to remember that to a large extent we cannot control other people’s behaviour but we can control how we behave and how we feel about their behaviour.
Communication and change are not a currency in all families. If this is the case you can think about how best to manage and safeguard yourself so you have the best experience with your family you can.
If it goes well we can have a sense of warmth, affirmation and connection with our family this Christmas learning more about others and ourselves.
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