3 key steps to connect with family over the holidays

Home for the Holidays

3 Key Steps to Connect with Family (especially during the holidays) 

In order to connect more deeply with family over the holidays, it’s important to figure out how to respect them as people in the world. After all, everyone is trying to do the best they can with what they have, right?

My Italian family from Philly set the standard for holiday traditions– lots of delicious food, great company, suffocating blankets of guilt, good family drama, and excessive, over-the-top gifting. We always had waaaayy too much of EVERYTHING. (Parents, if you think your children would somehow be emotionally scarred for having just a few meaningful gifts, think again. The more gifts we got, the less the intention of gifting mattered and the more we expected those gifts…)  Holidays were intense all around– intensely joyful and just plain old intense.

When we grew up, they became more intense than joyful, especially before having children. Unspoken rules about gifts and competition for the best gift given, arguing and belittling the “chef” of the holiday for having a menu that was “subpar”, showing up late and leaving early only after complaining the whole time, and my all-time favorite: instead of saying hello, our family loves to say: “Look who showed up. You never come see me.” That one always gets me scratching my head and wondering if I slept through their visits or phone calls to our house… 

Jokes aside, the holidays don’t have to be that way– even if no one else in your family will change, you can choose to make this holiday season into the best one yet by following these 3 expert steps on how to connect with family during the holiday season. 

STEP 1. MAKE A LIST OF WHAT EACH PERSON IN YOUR FAMILY IS CAPABLE OF.

The first thing that you need to do to start on the path of dealing with and respecting your family members is to figure out what each individual person in your family is actually capable of. Make a list for everyone individually. Furthermore, break down all of the behaviors that they get engage in–both good and bad.  Do they show up late? Leave early? Do they make judgmental or hurtful comments? Maybe they make the world’s best stuffed mushrooms or bring the best desserts? Write it down.

STEP 2. WRITE DOWN THE EXPECTATIONS YOU HAVE FOR EACH FAMILY MEMBER.

Put the first list aside. Now, make a list of everything that you expect of each person in your family. What are all the things that you wish they would do and they haven’t? What are all the things that you expect from them? Maybe you feel like your expectations are already low? Do you wish the family member would be kind, show up on time, and still bring those delicious desserts? Write it all down. Remember that you will need to do each step for each individual family member.

STEP 3. COMPARE THE LISTS YOU MADE IN STEPS 1 & 2

Finally, put both list 2 and list 1 side by side. Do you notice any similarities or differences? What do you see?

Let’s say your lists looked like these:

Uncle Boomer’s Capabilties

  • always late
  • leaves early
  • funniest Uncle
  • makes rude comments at times
  • makes the best lasagna
  • loves the holidays
  • says no one ever visits him

My Expectations for Uncle Boomer

  • be on time
  • be nice
  • bring lasagna
  • connect with others
  • stop being passive aggressive

Did you notice that my expectations for Uncle Boomer exceed his capabilities in several areas? Uncle Boomer has been late to almost every function for as long as I can remember. Expecting him to be on time doesn’t make any sense. If your Uncle hasn’t been on time in years, why would he be on time this Thanksgiving? As a result of his choice, you can also choose to accept that Uncle Boomer will be late and that that is okay because it is his choice, not a reflection of his entire relationship with you.

It seems reasonable to expect family to be nice to each other, right? But what if your family members are insecure in some areas of their life and have a difficult time connecting genuinely to others? What if Uncle Boomer doesn’t perceive his comments to be rude and thinks they are funny? Does anyone smile when he says things? Put yourself in the person’s shoes. Do they see the world exactly as you do? Are you assuming that they do? Expecting someone that you claim to love to be someone that they are not is not fair. It will only create resentment and disrespect between both parties in the relationship. If you wish to be respected, it is a good idea to respect others too. This means putting yourself in their shoes and choosing to see the world from their point-of-view.

Every single person has valleys and dark times just like yours. Above all, respecting others for who they have become and loving them even when they can’t meet your expectations is the right thing to do.

Rose Skeeters

Not an Excuse for Rude Behavior…

This doesn’t mean letting a family member treat you poorly. It means not being surprised when Uncle Boomer makes a rude comment and hurts your feelings AND it means letting him know that what he said was mean. Tell the truth and set boundaries. Choose to take control of your own life experience this holiday season. In order to build better relationships and deeper connections with people, especially members of your family that you currently consider difficult or toxic, you must be willing to see the world from their perspective – to have empathy for them.

Following these tips will improve your experience dramatically this year, guaranteed. Need more help? Let’s schedule a time to chat.

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