Families and Holidays – How to Navigate.

While holidays and family get togethers, virtual or in real life, can be very joyful, may have treasured rituals and traditions, and bring people together from their busy lives, they can also be pitfalls for potential hurt.

Have realistic expectations
As refreshing as it would be if your father didn’t criticize your outfit this year, or your mother didn’t mention your weight, they probably will. Don’t expect people to change when they have behaved in the same way for years. Having expectations can lead to feelings of upset.

Keep potentially upsetting topics off-limits
Politics and religion are obvious, but people also bring up sensitive subjects without thinking about how they might affect others. “Are you ever going to get married?” Or “ when are you going to have a baby?” may seem harmless, but more likely than not, it will strike a nerve. Plan to keep conversation conflict-free by avoiding potentially sensitive topics, or simply ask what’s new and take it from there.

Set your emotions aside. Except empathy.
Put your emotions aside when talking to older family members about racism or current policy/events – remember that you are changing the worldview they have been surviving by. Without them, we would not be having the discussion.

Relatives who rehash old arguments or bring up past mistakes.
Unfortunately, there’s something about families coming together around the holidays that sometimes seems to make people eager to bring up old hurts, arguments, and mistakes. Try to move to another topic, but if they continue, you can firmly say, “I’m not talking about that, there are so many things to talk about.“

Become a Participant Observer
Psychologists use a research technique called participant observation, meaning that they join groups of people in order to watch and report on whatever those people do. Observe family members as if you’re collecting data for a research study. Almost any group activity is interesting when you’re planning to describe it later as an observer.
Accept that the only thing you can control is your reaction
You can’t stop people from bringing up controversial or hurtful subjects or asking rude questions, but you can monitor and modify your own reactions. No one can force you to engage in a negative conversation.

Don’t drink too much
If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. Some people become aggressive or argumentative when they’ve had too much to drink. Avoid people who have had too much to drink, and don’t engage in arguments.

Be active
It’s difficult to be drawn into an argument when engrossed in an activity that requires concentration, physical activity, or laughter. Play a game, go for a walk, or watch an engrossing holiday movie.

Practice gratitude
Take a time-out and think about all you have to be grateful for: a delicious meal, a warm home, good health, a close friend, your sweet companion animals, or a sunny day. Anxiety can be diminished by focusing on the things we enjoy and value.

Bring or have a happy reminder
Looking at a favorite photograph, a funny or encouraging text from a friend, or anything else that makes you smile can go a long way toward relieving stress.

Take a deep breath, or ten
Can’t physically leave a stressful situation? You can always focus on your breathing. Take ten slow, deep breaths, focusing on breathing in and out. Deep belly breathing has been shown to be a powerful stress reliever.

Debrief
It’s helpful to follow up on family events by debriefing with someone you love. If your brother really “gets” you, call him after a family dinner you’ve both survived. If you don’t trust anyone who shares a shred of your DNA, report to a friend or therapist. When you are able to discuss hurtful, awkward, or just plain awful exchanges with another person who loves and accepts you, it helps to take the sting out.

Embolden Psychology
Embolden

Embolden offers the ADOS-2, the gold standard assessment for kids on the spectrum.

Combined with psychoeducational testing, it helps provide comprehensive information and recommendations to help children and teens six and up.

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