There's a lot riding on family time during the holidays and this can create stress for everyone. With blended families, there's the challenge of logistics, trying to accommodate the needs of so many others and still not compromise your own. And when family members live in different cities, it's hard to determine which is more difficult - going back home or having them on your turf. Of course, there are all the memories of holidays past coupled with the expectations of today - sometimes unrealistic and often left unfulfilled.
So, how can you get off the couch and into the action? The following eight tips will help as you develop a plan to restore balance to your relationships during the holidays:
1. Realize that what you are experiencing is normal and stress is common for a lot of families at this time of year.
2. If you're traveling home, remember to pack your patience. Internalized memories or old family dynamics are bound to surface. Unfinished business, like sibling rivalry and the need for undivided attention, is baggage that is often too large to fit in the overhead compartment. So make a decision this year to leave it behind.
3. Explore the possibility of the out of town guests staying in a hotel. It might be a relief for all of you, and the beginning of a new family tradition.
4. If Aunt Sue doesn't get along with your uncle's second wife, make it easier on yourself and stagger their visits.
5. If you get into a conflict with a family member who is unreasonable, don't take the bait. Despite how hard it may be, go for the higher ground and walk away.
6. With a relationship that matters to you, take the time to bury the hatchet. If in the past you have gone underground and then blown up later, don't let these feelings fester. Acknowledge the part that you play and deal with it now, once and for all.
7. Whether family members are with you in person or in your memories, learn the power of letting go of childhood pain and longings. Forgiveness becomes a gift for both of you.
8. Recall what you love about your family and let them know how grateful you are to have them in your life. Try to focus on their positives rather than the negatives.
You may not have many models of repairing the family and may have to make it up as you go along. Trust yourself in the process - often the messiness of emotions leads to understanding yourself and others better. Conflict can serve as an invitation to grow when you honor the importance of relationships. Many feel that with family there are no returns or exchanges, even with a gift receipt. So embrace the holiday season and rejoice in the love, support and connection of your family relationships.
(c) Her Mentor Center, 2006