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Holiday Family Dynamics (Yikes!) | Psychology Today

Holiday Family Dynamics (Yikes!) | Psychology Today
Holiday Family Dynamics (Yikes!) | Psychology Today

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Recent weeks have seen Spring Break, Passover, Easter, and Ramadan, and possibly a few other reasons to have family gatherings. Then there are summertime July 4th celebrations, possibly summer birthdays, and then Christmas, Hannukah, New Year’s parties,and Kwanza. In other words, whoever you are, wherever there are family celebrations of any sort, there are always reasons for get-togethers.

Wherever and whenever family gatherings are, there are often sticky situations you may have to face. You may be at odds with the family’s religious practices, politics, or expectations of you. You may hate your position in the family, which may no longer be yours: (“Little Lorie, how you have grown!” or “Still single?” when you are an adult).

No matter when or what, many people have an issue with a family member or with customary practices that makes family get-togethers less than wonderful to anticipate participating in.

So do you keep pleading too much work or declining invitations for various vague excuses? Have you ever told a living parent, sibling, or other relative host the real reason behind your excuses? If not, I strongly suggest you do before you miss all the fun or a relative who is suddenly gone before you expected it. Allow me to provide a few examples:

1. Let’s say some or many of the family loudly express ideas that go against yours, or they press you uncomfortably with questions like “Where do you go to church where you live?” or “Why don’t you invite some of your friends to our family dos?” Be straightforward, and turn the tables. “What about you, Aunt Fanny. I know you used to enjoy the social life at your church. Do you still?” Most people would rather talk about themselves anyway.

2. Be ready with some ideas for group games that will turn attention from a dicey topic into fun for all, like a tug-of-war. If that’s not your family’s style, excuse yourself and go to the kitchen or washroom if the general discussion turns to politics or ideas you don’t share.

3. If the conversation is not something you want to get into, grin and bear it if you possibly can. There must be some relative there you enjoy. Seek that one out to hang with.

4. When an invitation to a family event arrives, don’t automatically refuse. Give a thought to some of the elders who may be gone before you know it and to ways (see above) to attend while avoiding the unpleasantries. There is actually much to be valued in seeing the family from which you sprang, like it all or not.

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