"If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton, you may as well make it dance." -George Bernard Shaw, Immaturity
This week we are working on the stress that family can cause. Let’s be real, the holidays are here [time is fleeting, stay present and enjoy every day] and some of us are happy to spend quality family-time while others aren’t as thrilled. Each person has their own definition for ‘family.’ Families' come in different shapes, sizes, ethnicities, cultures, values, but we all have a meaning for the word ‘family.’
From my studies, it appears that many issues we face as adults stem from our childhoods. However, there’s good news. When you reach adulthood, you are capable to choose the life you want for you. It is a harder path since we must catch ourselves, acknowledge how we deal with our issues, and determine what is positive and what is negative for our well-being.
Here’s a little about my family…
I grew up in a big family. I have four brothers, one sister and we've had numerous animals. I loved and hated every minute in my insane household growing up.
My father [retired FBI agent and retired Colonel in the military] was, is, and will always be a yeller. He’s strict and the sole provider for my wittiness. My mother, the literal hardest working woman as well as the most selfless [I mean this, even people who aren’t related to her say the same thing] is still working as a Physical Therapist at sixty [don't tell her I told you her age!] They worked hard and gave us the best lives'. We’ve shared birthday after birthday together, every holiday together, yelled and fought with each other, we’ve cried, and we’ve struggled with one another. Through it all, we eventually grew up realizing that family comes first and regardless of what we’ve said, we are all there for one another. This taught us what forgiveness and unconditional love is. My family means the world to me and they are the foundation that I grew upon.
As I’m growing into my own life I have learned, however, that there are boundaries that need to be established. We need lines drawn so that we can take pleasure in our own lives’ because everyone deserves to enjoy their own life aside from family.
Sometimes being with family can cause anxiety and stress. I figured I could share my suggestions that I have learned over the years to help cope:
Appreciation. Realize that your parents/guardians tried their best. Understand that at one point they were in your shoes. They're on the same journey of life and they too have to figure out things by making mistakes. Being a parent is a full-time job. Still, parents can have bad days and say things they don’t mean. There's also some people that are not so fit for the job position. Learn from their mistakes and struggles and grow to forgive them. Strive to be better for you and for your relationship with them.
Start conversations. Ask what's going on in their lives' and share what's going on in yours. Make a firm decision to listen and care about the conversation. They are family in the end, sometimes it could be awkward to create conversation, but that’s because you’re not used to doing it. Once you start opening communication in a positive manner with family members, you can enjoy family time that much more.
Coping skills. Coping skills are a necessity in this life [we shall get in more depth about coping skills in a future blog post, stay tuned], not only with family, but in everyday life. Coping skills are healthy skills that you develop to deal with sadness, anger, anxiety, frustration, denial and death. Figure out what works for you. It might be deep breathing, becoming present [here-and-now], go for a walk, find that coping skill you can turn too if you need it.
You’re an adult now! You aren’t the 16-year-old, confused, adolescent that didn’t feel their voice was heard. I have to reiterate this to my clients. You are in control now. Things that happened to you when you were younger are now memories to bring to light when bettering ourselves in adulthood. Some people have had trauma, in which case, you need to make sure you work that out positively in therapy so you don't bring that with you through life. However, in all other cases, you have to be the one to change, not your family. The only way you can grow and be more understanding is to be the one who is the change you wish to see in them.
These are just a few suggestions that could help you if you have any anxiety about family or the holidays.
Regardless, whatever family you have or have made for yourself, stay close to those people and hold them close to your heart. Happy Thanksgiving!