Thanksgiving is a bit like Christmas. There is an expectation you will get together for quality time with family over a nice meal.
The problem is that instead of it being fun and close, the reality for many families is that it can be more like an explosive emotional minefield.
Family of origin relationships can be fraught with emotional baggage, not obvious until you get back together again!
Then suddenly old resentments, comparisons, competition and roles resurface in a flash in the relationship dance, and before you know it, you, your parents and your siblings are edgy, tense and over emotional and it isn’t enjoyable anymore. So what can you do? Here are a few tips to make it easier….
Aim low and adjust your expectations
If you go home with high hopes of family closeness, you run the risk of being disappointed. Try to accept and enjoy your family members as they are, without trying to change them. If you want to raise a thorny issue, a one to one conversation is probably going to be less inflammatory. Raising it with the whole family present can quickly become a mud slinging exercise.
Grow a thick skin and don’t take things personally
This isn’t always easy to do but if someone reacts to you with irritation or criticism, it often says more about them than you, their stress, their triggers, their insecurities. So try to shrug off an unkind comment without taking it on. They don’t have to define you.
Be pleasant and positive
When someone else is upset or emotionally reactive,you can defuse it by listening, trying to understand, being kind and staying calm. Emotional reactions are usually caused by painful feelings. Avoid adding your own overreactions that will fuel that fire.
Be proactive and take care of yourself
Before going home, take time with a friend, a journal or a therapist to think through the typical dynamics in your family and what strategies you might use to deal with it this time. Try to hold onto your own identity and remind yourself of how well you are doing in your life. If necessary, take time out to phone a friend or a partner for reassurance. By maintaining your own positive self- esteem, you are less likely to be affected by other people’s ‘stuff’. Good luck!
ps let me know what happens in your family and if there is anything I can help you with. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org