Family time and holidays can be especially challenging for those struggling with mental health or emotional issues. No matter how severe or mild your issues are, it’s essential to take a proactive approach to manage family time over the holidays. As much as you love your family, their presence and behavior can act as triggers and make it hard to enjoy yourself. Use these tips to manage family time over the holidays effectively.
Vocalize Expectations During Family Time and Holidays
Most of the time, kids know what’s expected of them in the household. During family time and holidays, though, routines are broken, and the boundaries often become hazy. If you vocalize behavioral expectations, there’s a definite set of rules to follow. Let children know exactly what’s expected of them over the holidays. Kids feel more secure when they are given a clear set of rules. They may not always follow every rule, but at least they’ll know where the boundaries are.
Let Kids Know What is Happening
Another thing that often sets kids off on reckless and out of control behavior is not knowing what’s going on. Kids subconsciously get scared when they don’t know what to expect. If kids are confused about what’s happening, they can start to act up, which in turn creates chaos and possible triggers for you. To help prevent this, let kids in on what will be happening during family time and holidays. Let them know that relatives will be coming to stay in the guest room for a few days. Tell them when you’ll be getting the tree or other decorations. The more you share about plans, the calmer your kids are likely to be.
Give Assignments to Visiting Relatives
It can be distracting and frustrating to have visiting relatives hovering over you when you’re trying to multitask in the kitchen while remaining calm and composed. You certainly don’t want relatives to be asking complicated and personal questions about your recovery when you can’t give your undivided attention. Keep relatives busy during family time and holidays with small assignments, so they have less free time to distract you. Send relatives out for more ice, grocery items, etc. Ask them to play with the kids for a while, or to get a fire going in the fireplace. Your relatives will enjoy helping out, and it will keep them out of your hair for a while, too.
Confide in Your Trusted Spouse or Partner
Your supportive spouse or life partner can play an important role in the holidays, just as they do during family therapy. Remember, you don’t have to be strong or hide what you feel when you’re in the company of your loved one. As long as you know they understand what’s going on in your life, confide in them in private. Let them know what you’re feeling. Whether you’re feeling overwhelmed or scared or resentful, talk about your feelings with them. If they know that the holidays are causing you stress, they will probably be willing to modify their behavior, so they are more gentle or patient with you. That’s not too much to ask from someone who loves you and wants you to succeed in your recovery.
Let People Know What You Need
Just because it’s the holidays, that doesn’t give family or visiting friends and family the right to overlook your needs. If you’re becoming triggered by arguments or even exuberance, let others know that you need some calm, just as you would if you were in a family therapy session. For instance, if everyone seems to have gathered in the kitchen while you’re trying to work, herd them out and send them into the living room or outdoors. If voices are getting loud, ask people to keep it down. It’s okay to ask for what you need at the moment.
Finally, remember that everyone is under more stress during the holidays. Your feelings and thoughts are perfectly normal, and you’re entitled to enjoy a holiday environment that supports your good mental and emotional health. To learn more about dealing with family time and holidays, contact A Fresh Start Therapy at 855.325.3909.