Managing family expectations around the holiday season.
by Emily Hodge, 27th November 2020
Hi Emily, honestly I have really enjoyed the lockdown period of staying at home and having lots of space to relax and feel more like myself. Christmas is on the way and I’m starting to worry about spending it with my family. There’s so much tension between us all and expectation to have the perfect happy day that it just fills me with dread and I know I will be utterly miserable. Any tips to help me deal with this?
Do you really want to, and have to, see your family? I ask because although it's tradition and you feel you should, who really gets to decide this? If you’re living away from home, you’re old enough to have a say in how you spend significant holidays. However, I appreciate thinking and wanting this is different to actually going through with it.
So let’s look at how you can change two things. Either by not going, or going but with boundaries that help you have a better time.
If you decide not to go, you’ll want to let your family know sooner rather than later - the fact that only 3 households can meet inside may have proven helpful for you to release yourself from being within any bubble. But if not, which family member are you closest to and how do you usually communicate with them? Carry that on - calling, WhatsApp, email - and let them know whilst you’d love to see them due to lockdown you think it’s best you stay at yours with your existing bubble (or the arrangements you have or will make) and you’d love to arrange how to Zoom chat them during the festive season. Let them know you’d love to meet for a walk in January or arrange now how you can help if they need some help with another family member. Even though there’s traditionally been tension, you’re showing a willingness to over-ride that but also have a clear plan for yourself.
If you decide to go though we’ll need to create more boundaries for you. If possible, decide or ask now where you’re sleeping so that you have space to get away from any tension. See if you can take a more active role so that it helps you stay busy - offer to cook the dessert or make the side dishes, offer to wash up as an xmas present, offer to make breakfast the next day - whatever helps you stay busy. If you have a car, use it - go for a drive on your own or with your favourite family member each day you’re home. Get outside where possible. Most of all, know that you have the freedom to leave even if it gets too much, but you can do this without creating more tension - you have an important work deadline to make up or a significant person to visit outside. Whatever helps you manage the few days you’ve decided to be together.
You’ll need to make peace with the fact that taking control for yourself around your family may increase tension but you get to decide how you let that land too.