Dear Terri,

I am writing this the day after Halloween. The next big holiday is Thanksgiving, and I thought I would offer some tips that might make the holidays easier for you.

Spoiler alert: This email may destroy any thoughts you may have that therapists have perfect holidays.

Fact #1: We have the same issues that many of you have.
Fact #2: There really is no such thing as a perfect holiday. Magazines lie.
Fact #3: If you are willing to give up long-standing expectations, you can still have a great holiday!
All of us have memories of perfect holidays where things magically went well. Cherish those memories, but please don’t expect them to happen again on a regular basis. They may again happen. Just don’t regard it as a regular happening like Black Friday.

Just so you know that I am being as authentic as I can be, let me tell you of the winner of the most awful family celebration I ever hosted. It happened to be Easter many years ago, but it could just as easily have happened on any other holiday. I had gone to considerable trouble to make it as nice as possible. Everyone even had their own Dove chocolate rabbit. One thing led to another, and before I knew it, a full scale family battle had erupted over some minor infringement by someone. At any rate, someone stood up and said they were leaving because things were too stressful. That person, and then literally everyone except my husband and kids, got up and left. A new record- we didn’t even make it to the main course before family armageddon! The upside is that my husband, kids and I got to eat all those chocolate rabbits.
So did we just put that holiday experience behind us and try to continue the old ways going forward? No. These are some things we found worked better for us:

  1. Get a consensus from your immediate family on holiday traditions going forward.

  3. Invite a few friends to share the family celebration. Families tend to behave better when an “outsider” is present. However, make sure your friends have been informed of the dynamics, and are making an informed decision to attend!

  5. If a decision is made to avoid the traditional get-together, consider having dinner at a restaurant with your immediate family, and then having desert afterwards with your extended family. Less time together may make for more harmony.

  7. You can have several holiday celebrations with smaller groups of the extended family, avoiding gatherings of the whole group. Usually. there are sub-groups of relatives that you really like. Spend time with them, and start creating some new traditions.

  9. You can also celebrate Christmas out of town. This really works well for some families, because old memories of holiday past are not triggered. My own family has tried this approach. It worked well for Easter, but Christmas felt strange in a tropical climate.

These are just a few ideas- the point is that you get to choose, and you don’t need to be captive to traditions that no longer work as well as they once did. Stay true to the real meaning of the holiday – something magical may happen-you never know!

Holidays can be difficult to navigate – if you would like to talk about this, please give me a call at 847-827-7639.

Thanks for doing business with me!
Terri Schmidt