Why It’s Okay Not to Go Home For The Holidays (and How To Handle It).

Noemi J. Mullins

The Christmas holiday is fast approaching, and you’re preparing your out-of-office notification. For many, this means that they will be traveling to see their family. It can be a traumatic experience to join a group of family members. Why do you think it’s a good idea? Finally, I learned that I did not have to. Being a divorced child in my early twenties led to some awkward family holidays and continues to cause anxiety as I divide time with my parents. It’s still an enormous stress in my life, even though they’re both very accommodating.

Nancy Brittain is a Denver LCSW. She said, “Holidays tend to be significant for families. This means that everything gets heightened.” Holiday gatherings can bring out feelings, emotions, destructive behavior, and dysfunctional dynamics. Luckily, my parents support me in my independence, and they understand that the holidays are not the best time to be with family. Others have parents who are not as understanding, unaccommodating, or even abusive. After talking to friends, Therapists, and friends who were therapists, I realized that I was not the only person who didn’t really want to return home for the holidays. If you are struggling, read on to learn seven tips.

You can choose where to spend your holidays.

PSA: Your mental health is the most important. Yes, I did say before. You can change your plans if time spent with your family is a problem. There’s no need to feel guilty or remorse because it’s your responsibility to prioritize your well-being. Brittain said that “sometimes taking care of yourself is about setting boundaries for when you go home and how you see your family.” Ask yourself why it feels like you are not in control of where you choose to spend your holidays. You are the one who makes your own decisions. Your job is to ensure your safety, no matter what that may be.

Think about the experience of living at home if you are on the fence.

It can be helpful to think about being at home with your family and how you interact. Benjamin White, a Colorado-based LCSW/CGP, suggested that people should think about how they behave when with their family and the impact it has on them over the next few weeks and months. Do you drink more alcohol than usual? Do you experience difficulty sleeping? The experience can be a mild frustration at times, but it can also have physical and damaging consequences.

Please suggest an alternate time or location.

Family circumstances change frequently. This means your holidays may look different this year than in the past. Consider suggesting a less emotional time to spend with your partner’s family, whether you’re looking to be with them or want some space. Brittain indicated that the importance of the day was time spent with your partner. Try communicating that it will be easier to coordinate if you choose a different date.

Remember that conflict can be a sign of healthy relationships.

Do you doubt that your family will be able to cope with the news of your absence from home? You can try it. White explained that people are afraid to do or say anything because it might harm their parents. White explains that healthy connections are characterized by safe interactions where people can express themselves and do things that others may not like. It is important to test this before entering an adult relationship. Many people are afraid that their parents may be offended and cold. But if this is the relationship you desire, would you be comfortable with it? You are an adult, and the connection is not a parent/child one.

You can acknowledge their disappointment while absolving yourself of any guilt.

Susie Hair, LCSW/CEDS, in Dallas, Texas, explains guilt as something we feel when we deliberately inflict harm or pain on another person. Recognize that family members will be disappointed if you don’t come home unless you are intentionally hurting your family (which would be the subject of another article). She said that it’s okay for people to feel disappointed. It’s normal for people to be disappointed, she said. It is not your responsibility to deal with other people’s disappointment. Period.

Give a simple answer.

You don’t have to explain something that will cause you more stress. It’s not the time to discuss your sister’s drug addiction with your family if it will cause them to suffer. Hair suggests a general explanation: “If you’re too stressed to explain why you’re not coming home, you can express your desire to create your own holiday tradition in the way that your family did it when you were younger.”

Firmly stand by your decision.

Be clear and consistent about your decision not to return home this year. Hair said that if you hint at the possibility of returning home, then your family is likely to go all out. Inch explained that if you don’t make a firm decision, it could lead to painful conversations, and then next year will be the same. It took me years to find the courage to stand up for myself. I decided to schedule my return home at a time other than holidays. Speaking up has changed my relationship with my family and the way I feel about the holidays (yes, it did take some hours of therapy to get there). You have a choice in how you want to spend your holiday. You can still change your flight and adjust your itinerary. Your loved ones will understand if your family relationship is healthy. If not, you might want to stay at home and dig deeper.

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