Does Holiday Time with the Family Shake you Up Emotionally?

You are of course not alone!

Spending the holidays with family can be a great chance to reconnect but also a serious stressor that can bring up old issues of sibling rivalry, territoriality, competitiveness, boundary difficulties, and perhaps hardest of all, trying to get love or approval from someone who just can’t give it. Of course, for married couples, this is in addition to the issues that have to be negotiated around whose family to spend the holidays with and how to manage family issues between parents-in-law and children-in-law. And then there are parenting issues when it comes to kids being off schedule or in a setting where regular rules or family values may be challenged or simply disregarded by well-meaning relatives or just by the disruption in routine and structure.

And so it’s no wonder that many people breathe a sigh of relief when the holidays are over and life seems to return to “normal”, even if there is a sense of loss about saying goodbye to family members who live far away or returning to work and everyday stresses at home.

Here are some tips and thoughts about how to recover emotionally from the post-holiday syndrome!

1. Reestablish emotional boundaries. Did you get caught up worrying about other peoples’ problems or getting emotionally involved in conflicts that didn’t directly involve you? Did you allow yourself to get caught up in old triggers or taking other peoples’ advice or criticism to heart even when it was unsolicited or more about them than about you? It’s time to take stock of this and to firm up a sense of healthy detachment and self-possession.

2. Use this opportunity to affirm the value of diversity and differences, as well as to practice being flexible where you might be too rigid. You may have a particular parenting approach, but seeing other approaches used by your partner’s family members, for example, can remind you that there’s not just one good way to parent. This can also be a good opportunity to see that things don’t have to always fit your ideal. You may be a very structured parent but a few days of being spoiled by the grandparents won’t make or break your kid.

3. Put old issues in context. Family members often regress when they return to their childhood home or family environment. This is usually temporary and doesn’t have to reflect your overall relationships with parents or siblings. Try to remember that we all go back to old patterns when we find ourselves in certain settings, without being too judgmental or reactive when you notice things that used to bother you but aren’t really that big of a deal in the scheme of things. Humor is a great antidote for childish jealousies, hurts, and patterns that can have an uncanny way of reasserting themselves when everyone comes together!

4. Let go of what you can’t control. One thing you can’t control is how others see you. We all have our own filters and our own limits to what we can accept in others and what we can allow ourselves to see about the other. Your mother may never get your point of view if she’s an unhealthy person herself. Your brother may judge you for not being successful like him but this might be more about his own ego than about you. Your sister-in-law may think you’re a horrible parent because she puts too much pressure on herself to be the perfect parent. It’s just not always that much about you.

5. Review what worked and what didn’t. Sometimes we’re so glad to be out of a situation that we just don’t want to go back and think about it once it’s behind us. Out of sight, out of mind. You may be so glad the holidays are behind you that you miss the opportunity to reflect on what went well and what didn’t, and what can be done next time around to make things go more smoothly.

6. If you need help, get help! If there are deeper issues that usually get pushed under the rug but that came into focus over the holidays, it may be time to get some help. Therapy can help you learn to set boundaries with family members who are disrespectful of your limits, to see yourself through your own mirror rather than someone else’s distorted view, or to figure out whether you take too much or too little responsibility for problems in your relationships. It can also help you learn techniques for dealing with difficult people, communicating more effectively, or identifying unconscious beliefs or patterns that keep repeating themselves despite your best efforts to the contrary or your lack of awareness of them.

I invite your questions and comments and don’t forget to go to visit to follow my page for more insights, tips, and ideas!

To make an appointment for therapy, please call me at 973-348-9384. I don’t usually answer the phone directly because I am in session but I will definitely return your call so please leave a message!

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Hope to hear from you!