Besides having a lot of extra social opportunities and a much bigger “To-Do” list during the holidays, many find strong emotions surfacing during the holidays. There can be quite a difference between our idea and the reality of how we are treated by friends and relatives. Some of us may personalize it when traditions shift, due to preference for family member to visit in-laws or include step-children on alternate holidays. Sometimes when finances tighten, gift traditions may be altered. Perhaps a grab-bag can be arranged where a family picks the name of one child or family member to buy a gift for rather than buy for everyone. Sometimes younger kids get gifts from all relatives up to a certain age, or a dollar limit per gift can be established. Some families are shifting away from the materialism that can overshadow the holidays by including charitable or other volunteer activities.
Regardless of these shifts, holidays often trigger “anniversary reactions,” for missing family or friends who have moved, no longer are in contact, or have become ill or passed away. Sometimes clients report trauma or anxiety triggers due to political differences families have argued about during this contentious election season or what if you still visit your family during the holidays but have recovered memories about their abuse or neglect?
Here are some practical tips for the variety of strong emotions our friends and families can trigger during the holidays:
By Krista Sherinian, LCSW