Family Support During the Holidays

Photo by Kamaji Ogino on

All hands on deck! Get your support plan in now before being with family. So there’s a lot about this because 1. Not everyone has the family they’d want and 2. Not everyone celebrates the holidays others in their country celebrates. As a therapist I so often get asked if business is bombing during the holidays because people visit with their families more during these times.

No! No matter what setting I’ve worked in the American/Christian holiday season during winter is always my slowest time. It’s not the easiest, just the slowest. Several clients have told me they’re doing things with loved ones and cancel appointments.

As a psychologist I try to make myself available clinically at these times because I don’t celebrate a lot of these holidays and can provide that and because I think we’ve created a lot of hype about this ideal, nuclear family that comes together like they do on commercials.

We know full well that people have meanies in their families, people’s families can be spread out physically or emotionally, people may not be close to relatives but are close to a chosen family and wonder if that’s okay, people may feel overwhelmed, and some families prefer to celebrate in different ways. For example, I like quiet and rest and other family members may love to come together with lots of talking and food. We often have a lot of unchecked expectations around holidays and birthdays and it can get hard or even conflictual. People’s unmet expectations can leave hurt, without anyone even knowing what happened or why.

These are some of the reasons I like to get clients a support or coping plan before they visit with chosen family and relatives. For some connecting with someone, taking breaks away from loved ones, speaking up about expectations, rest, play or anchoring/grounding strategies can help. For other people they may prefer to write out some of what’s coming up for them, get some movement in or even do something really enjoyable to them.

Even getting a daily practice of breathing in for three seconds, holding for three seconds, and then breathing out for three seconds can be helpful. If you are going to introduce something like 3-3-3 breathing I’d do it a few times at the same time everyday for at least a few weeks before hoping you could do it when your brain or body goes into fight/flight/freeze around loved ones during the holidays.

If there’s a grounding strategy you’d like to practice you might explore this now with your therapist before seeing family soon. I’d love to hear one thing you hope to engage in before or during time with loved ones.

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