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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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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

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