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How To Navigate Family Dynamics During The Holiday Season

Our first memories of any holiday are with our families.

Love & Relationships

Celebrating the holidays is going to look a lot different this year. The holidays can be stressful for many. Now, with a pandemic and an economic crisis, it is filled with uncertainty. All of us are trying to navigate through something. These are trying times, as some of us have lost jobs or loved ones to COVID-19. We all want the comfort of our families, young and old. But we also want to protect the health of our loved ones too.

But no matter the circumstance, when you sit down to eat Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, there is always that one aunty that has to be in your business. It's like they have this impulsive need to ask you a million questions. Why are you single? When are you getting married? Are you planning to have a baby? Their mouth just cannot hold water and rumors spread like wildfire. And from my experience, family rumors are the worst. This same aunty must comment on your body image too. Like it is their God-given right to tell you how much weight you've gained, or you need to eat some food.

The A-U-D-A-C-I-T-Y.

And then there are the estranged family members. It's like being the elephant in the room; noticeable, questionable, and silent. It's something that no one wants to bring up or mention. You can feel the tension in the room. It's thick and heavy, just waiting to be cut with a knife. The drama is real and sometimes is never-ending. And this is what we call a generational curse. One wrong comment can trigger World War III.

For others, holidays are NOT the most wonderful time of year. Maybe you can't be home with your family because of work, school, military deployment, or the current state of the world. Maybe you have lost a family member and you're still grieving. You prefer to be alone and sit with your feelings. And that's OK. Take the time you need. Maybe you have a toxic family member, and you need to protect your peace. That's OK too. Just thinking about my own toxic family gives me anxiety but that's a different story. And maybe you don't have any family at all. `

Family can be loving and warm, but they also can be overwhelming and bothersome. And yet no one wants to be alone for the holidays. For whatever reason, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, New Year's Eve, and New Year's Day are just hard.

So, how do you navigate family dynamics during the holidays, you ask? I can tell you how.

Boundaries

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Boundaries are what keep you sane, especially around the holidays. If you're not creating and practicing boundaries, I insist you do. Boundaries keep you from any stress or hurt you might feel from family interactions. Establishing boundaries with family seems hard, but I promise it's easy. A boundary can look like showing up, being present for a few hours, and sneaking out. It can also be a quick stop by, with an excuse to leave "due to other plans". A boundary can also look like choosing not to engage in certain conversations. This means using your voice to express where you stand on certain dinner table topics. Either way, there is a level of security in keeping your boundaries intact.

Limit Your Time

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Don't feel obligated to spend your entire Thanksgiving or Christmas with your family just because it's the norm or expectation. Have a conversation with yourself and ask yourself these questions. How much time do you want to spend with your family? What part of my day do I want to set aside for family? How does my family make me feel during the holidays? Is it necessary to be with family on this day? You can even pick and choose which holidays you choose to give to your family. Because who said you have to be present for every single Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Eve anyway. Feel free to put your family on an annual holiday rotation. Trust me, you will thank me later.

Use Technology

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If you can't go home for the holidays or spending time with family is not an option for you, get you some good ole' FaceTime in with your loved ones in a video chat. There are so many options to connect with family through technology. Set a time and date and enjoy a virtual holiday meal with your family. I mean, it's 2020. We have Zoom, Houseparty, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Instagram, Snapchat, and Telegram. We have no excuse. This way, you're able to see family, feel the holiday feels, be safe, and still be able to protect your peace.

Gather With Friends

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Nowadays, Friendsgiving has become more relevant than an actual Family Thanksgiving. The presence of nonjudgmental friends having dinner, drinks, and talking. No questions asked. But if questions are asked, it's in a safe space. Friends know the meaning of boundaries, unlike family, which makes gathering with friends much more pleasant than being with actual family.

Do Your Own Thing

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When all else fails, including boundaries, do your own thing. You can enjoy your own company during the holiday season. Yes, you read that right. There is nothing wrong with it and don't let anyone tell you differently. It is perfectly OK to get into the holiday spirit alone. Decorate your home, cook a holiday meal for one, and buy yourself some Christmas gifts too. Enjoy a staycation, order take out, bake Christmas cookies, sip on some hot chocolate or a holiday cocktail, and binge-watch your favorite holiday movies. Take that solo holiday vacation to the tropics because the Caribbean is always nice. We are moving towards less traditional holiday celebrations anyway.

I have learned to do all of these things because of my own family dynamics. I set boundaries with my parents and my brother. When I do see my family, I limit my time with them to a few hours or less. And no, I do not feel guilty. I have FaceTime dates with my dad every now and then. And since I live 2,000 plus miles away in a different state, my friends have become "framily". I typically spend holidays with them. Oh, and this year, I am taking that holiday vacation to the Caribbean.

Every holiday season, navigating family dynamics sends my anxiety through the roof followed by feelings of loneliness. It's inevitable. I long for my family. We all do. Our first memories of any holiday are with our families. The key is to continue to make yourself happy regardless of your family dynamics. It's important to keep pouring into yourself because some family or circumstances may never change. But you can still show your family love and appreciation during the holidays, it's just going to look a little different this year.

And at all costs, please protect your peace.

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