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Navigating Difficult Conversations Around the Holidays

For many relationships, the holidays can be a time of stress between navigating extended family, blended families and just the just the stress that money can have on many families.

A recent survey reported that 85 percent of people find the Holidays to be a very stressful time. For many people the holidays can be a very stressful time for various reasons. With the onset of the holidays it can produce a wide range of emotions such as anxiety, feelings of sadness, worry, guilt feelings, joy, uneasiness and so forth. People are struggling with significant problems such as the death of a loved one, an unwanted pregnancy, sudden illness of a family member or a friend, the possibility of someone going to jail, suicide of someone you know, victim of a crime, a tragic event that suddenly takes place and the list can go on and on.

Unknowingly, the family system can place a considerable amount of stress on family members when they have to navigate commitments with extended family and feeling pressure about having to attend a gathering when you really don’t want to. Many people are feeling obligated to go to a family event and if the don’t attend they’re torn and struggle with guilt feelings, which produces significant stress. Sometimes difficult choices and decisions have to be made in terms of attending one family gathering as apposed to another. This can produce stress and conflict between couples and their families. The goal is to make a decision together as a couple with a clear rationale and then convey your decision to your family members.

Blended families can produce stress because in most cases we are dealing with numerous parents, which tends to complicate things and attaining agreement is not always easy. Conflict and undue stress can arise from these types of situations. If there is a court order in terms of parenting time or visitation during the holidays it’s best to adhere to the court order. When multiple parents are involved do your best to conduct yourself in a respectful and courteous manner even if the other parents are not conducting themselves appropriately. Do your best to operate from the premise that we want to do what is in the best interest of the child or children.

For most people money is usually in short supply, especially during the holiday season. Financial problems is one of the most difficult stressors for people to deal with due to the fact that most of us are not equipped to resolve this type of problem effectively. When parents have limited monies to put a good meal on the table much less purchasing gifts for their children and family members it causes undue stress, guilt feelings coupled with feelings of inadequacy and inferiority. Be reminded of the fact that the holidays isn’t all about giving material gifts. One of the most important variables about the Holidays is spending time together with family and friends. Giving the gifts of love, time spent together sharing stories and imparting valuable life lessons with one another is  absolutely priceless. Pass on timeless gifts such as respect, gratitude, love, appreciation and kindness will never be forgotten and will never ever grow old.

Here are some conversations to be careful talking about during the Holidays.

1. People’s weight, especially being overweight.
2. People’s addictive habits.
3. Unemployment issues.
4. Legal issues
5. Divorce issues/separation
6. Sexual orientation
7. Gender identity issues

Be careful with sensitive issues during the Holidays . It’s a time to foster goodwill with one another and to focus on the importance of relationships with family and friends. Embrace each other as you embrace the holidays.


Lennox Forrest, PhD