Archive for Wednesday, December 1, 1999

Home for the holidays’ can be distressing times

December 1, 1999

Thanksgiving 1999 has come and gone, but we're not out of the woods yet.

Christmas is still ahead. Many of us made the "return home" both physically and emotionally. For some it was undoubtedly brief, perhaps for an afternoon only, and for others it was longer. For many the "return home" is emotionally difficult and stressful. Oftentimes, we find ourselves having to "psych up" mentally and emotionally for a period of time before the date of departure.

Frequently, we hear and read about how dysfunctional families can be. The truth is that the majority of families are dysfunctional. It's a fact of life.

Additionally, it's the severity of the dysfunction that causes problems in families. The level of emotional difficulty a person has when "returning home" as expected, is synonymous with the severity of dysfunction within that person's family system.

Even if past family dysfunction has been resolved and the current family system is relatively healthy, old memories can persist and prevent that person from fully enjoying their family holiday experience.

Surprisingly, when a person makes the decision not to "return home" because of family dysfunction, this is a good sign that a person has grown healthy enough to know that the existing family dysfunction isn't good for them. However, it is best to overcome old, unresolved feelings and remain connected to the family in some way.

Here are some hints that can help alleviate the anxiety and apprehension many people feel toward their families as the holidays approach.

The thorough approach is to "make peace with your past" by doing the work that is needed to overcome the old, unresolved feelings. Talking with a mental health counselor and/or joining a support group for children of Continued from page 8A

dysfunctional families are excellent ways to begin addressing the persisting negative feelings.

When gathering with loved ones remember to treat grown children as adults.

Likewise, grown children need to be careful of not getting pulled into the old role of "child" when relating to their parents.

Allow enough travel time for yourself and your family so the visit isn't rushed and strained.

Be sure there will be enough physical space in the house. If not, consider renting a room for the holiday meal at a hotel or community center. Stay at a hotel if you and your family are traveling from a long distance.

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