While many of us reflect with a smile about holiday traditions with our families of origin, others may not have been so fortunate. The holiday break at the end of December allows each of us to choose whom we wish to spend our time with, whether those persons include family of origin members, families that we have married into, and/or families we have created through the bonds of friendship.
Spouses and partners are encouraged to create holiday traditions and rituals that affirm their love and commitment to each other and their children. If a partner’s family member(s) is not supportive of the relationship, then considering alternative plans for the holidays is a viable option. My wish for my clients (as well as my friends) is that each of us can enjoy time with people we love such that the holidays are a time of relaxation, laughter, and encouragement. Here are some suggestions, broken down by client groups, to be mindful of:
- Embrace holiday traditions from both spouse’s families
- Encourage your children’s bonds with their cousins who are often the first set of life-long friends. Harmony between the aunts and uncles encourage and develop harmony amongst cousins.
- Collaborate with other parents about house rules and expectations when family is visiting for the holidays so that all the children have a similar understanding of “the rules.”
- Keep the lines of communication open with your spouse when determining budgets for gifts, events to attend, and the role of faith traditions during holiday celebrations.
- Enjoy your holiday break from school but reserve at least one day for studying prior to your return to classes
- Cooperate when asked to complete household chores, especially if your parents are hosting relatives or close friends for an extended stay or for a holiday meal.
- Avoid alcohol and other drugs even if your peers are tempting you.
- Be responsible with the family car. If you are a passenger, then ensure that anyone driving a motor vehicle is free from alcohol or other drug use.
- Stay within your budget for gifts, even though Santa appears to be leaving luxury cars in some driveways if you believe some current TV commercials.
- Be a gracious guest when invited by offering to clean up or bring side dishes and/or desserts for holiday meals which often require detailed planning and collaboration
- Moderate the intake of alcohol and sweets; enjoy the flavors but don’t regret gaining five to ten pounds by New Year’s Day due to overindulging.
- Consider donating some time to a local community center that is providing a holiday meal to those who are financially challenged and may not have housing.
- Be attentive to your nieces and nephews by participating in activities and games that the children perceive as fun and entertaining. Listen to their stories when they confide about their academic and extracurricular achievements; they want to hear your encouragement.
- Encourage your parents and siblings to treat your partner in a similar manner (hopefully a welcoming one) to your sibling’s spouses.
- Disengage from family of origin as needed if “your lifestyle” is not accepted
- Snuggle up with your partner and be grateful for having a loving wonderful commitment