The Holidays and Their Emphasis on Family Can Hurt.
A Self-Care Planning Guide
The colder months, and the holidays that accompany them, remind us of the important things: food, shelter, warmth, and time spent with those we love. Despite the holiday cheer, this time of year is not always joyful.
For many people – including survivors of abuse, LGBTQ+ folks who fear unacceptance, foster or adopted children who have lost contact with their biological families, or members of blended families who experience the tension of separation or re-marriage – the holidays, and their emphasis on family, can hurt.
If you are one of the many people who struggle with the idea of ‘family’ during the holidays, know that you are not alone. While there are no easy solutions to such complex feelings, here are some thoughts on how to practice self-care during the holidays.
Remind yourself to listen to your own needs, your own wants, and to put yourself first.
Despite what anybody tells you, you are not obligated to be with family during the holidays, especially if that family is toxic, abusive, manipulative, or otherwise makes you feel small. You are allowed to say no. If saying no feels scary, daunting, or impossible, then take baby steps. Show up late to family events, or leave early. Set a time limit on how long you are willing to stay. Establish an exit plan for when you start to feel uncomfortable or unsafe. It is okay to protect yourself. It’s not selfish, it’s self-care.
Practice the buddy system.
Identify someone in your life who can be your buddy. It can be a family member, a friend – anyone that you trust who loves and supports you. Ask them to check in with you by calling or texting you to make sure you are okay. Ask them to help in concrete ways, like going with you to events, or sending you cute dog photos. When it feels like you are standing alone, it’s comforting to remember that someone is on your side, rooting for you. And if you are someone who does not struggle with family during the holidays, offer to be someone else’s buddy, and let them know you care.
Ground your expectations.
Especially when it comes to family, you may want to give those who have hurt you second (or third, or fourth) chances. And the sincere hope that those who have hurt us will recognize the pain they have caused and make amends is a beautiful thing – but people do not change overnight. Trust your intuition. If a family member is truly sorry and is invested in earning your forgiveness, but you are not yet ready, then they can wait to make amends on your terms.
Celebrate with your chosen family.
Family does not have to be biological. Surround yourself with people who make you feel safe, loved, and cared for. Plan a ‘Friendsgiving’ dinner. Organize a Secret Santa gift exchange. Watch cheesy movies. Spend time with the people who warm your heart, whether you are related to them or not.
And always remember, no matter what holidays you celebrate; Christmas, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and more - you are worthy of love and respect not only on the holidays, but on every other day of the year, as well.
OUR TURN is a public service series by Turning Points Network (TPN) serving all of Sullivan County with offices in Claremont and Newport. We provide wraparound supports for survivors of domestic and sexual violence, stalking and human trafficking and we present violence-prevention education programs in our schools. For more than 40 years, TPN has helped people of all ages move from the darkness of abuse toward the light of respect, healing and hope.
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