Dear Readers – Every year, at this season of family-gatherings and hopes of good cheer, many people find their relationships with parents, siblings, and other relatives come into sharper focus, for better or worse.
So whether you’re embarking on a vacation with your immediate family, or participating in dinners and celebrations with members of an extended clan, here are some Tips of the Season:
- Be positive. Go to family events with the mature belief that you can have a good time. You’re older and wiser than when you got caught up in past family dynamics.
Know that even if some others haven’t changed, you have – enough to recognize that if you don’t react in the old way, the same trigger points can’t cause things to go the old negative way.
- Be generous. Some people worry about what gifts or foods to bring, but you can add a great deal more to the gathering by bringing along your compassion.
Recognize that some of the older family members are not going to be around forever, so give them the gift of time to listen to them, and to be comforting.
Get to know the younger ones who’ve grown up more since you last saw them. Ask about their interests, encourage their skills… some of these may be the family you get closer with, and even rely on, over the years.
- Be respectful. Some relatives will have put a lot of effort into this event, so show your appreciation of their goodwill.
If you’re the one who did a lot of work towards this get-together, remember it was your choice, so don’t beg for praise.
Sometimes old tensions start to emerge, even if by habit. Try to divert them.
If directed at you, rise above them, ignore them, avoid further conversation along that path, change the topic, or get busy with something else.
- Be grateful. Where it’s appropriate, express your gratitude for the family that’s raised you and, in most cases, did the best they could with the knowledge and resources they had at the time.
Show your gratitude for having reached your particular stage of life with the confidence of knowing who you are and what you can handle.
Pass on that gratitude by engaging with those family members you like and helping them reach the same kind of self-awareness.
There's this guy that I've been friends with for a year and I now like him as more than that.
It all started on a snow day when we decided to take a walk together.
I forgot my mitts and asked if he could hold my hands to keep them warm. He did and we held hands while we were walking.
It’s been three weeks since that happened and we ended up slow-dancing at our school dance a week ago.
But I know that he has a thing for another girl. What do I do?
Confused in North Country
Do nothing more than a friend normally does – be upbeat when you see him, ask him about how he’s doing, find areas of interest (music, sports?) that you share and discuss them, etc.
If he likes another girl, then don’t mention your own feelings for him. It’ll make the friendship awkward.
If he gets nowhere with this other girl, tell him that there are other girls around who think he’s great, including you.
But if he doesn’t pick up on that clue, drop it and go back to friendship mode unless it starts to upset you.
FEEDBACK Regarding the adult child who won’t forgive the past (Nov. 20):
Reader - “Advising a parent to give up on their child if they refuse therapy seems harsh.
“I believe that cutting ties, or even threatening to do so, would be traumatizing, and either end their relationship or worsen the problems they have.
“I realize that kids can dump things on their parents in ways that are excessive and unfair. And that creating clear boundaries is important with some adult kids.
“Wouldn’t it be prudent to give these parents a spectrum of boundary-limiting options?”
Ellie – Please read my response again, wherein I wrote that the parents must acknowledge being part of the problem, express their deep caring, and suggest “family therapy” together where they apologize and let their child vent.
BUT if there’s continued disrespect and battles (their “boundary-limiting options”), they can then warn him/her that contact may have to stop.
Tip of the day:
Wishing all my readers good health, peace, and the joys of the season!