Holidays are notorious for triggering mixed feeling in all of us. Often, people begin feeling depressed and blue as holiday season approaches. The media can take a large portion of the blame for this by portraying the ideal family, the one that none of us has ever had. We look at the inadequacies in our own lives and the disappointments of our lives and pain that were part of our childhood get dtirred up. Feelings of depression are likely to surface.
Secondly, issues that have never been resolved with our parents and siblings come to the forefront. Often, we are sculpted back into the role that we had as a child in our family constellation. This is incongruent with the type of competency and the identity we experience as adults. It causes a great deal of emotional stress and often leads to feelings of helplessness and manifests itself in depression.
Divorce and separation are additional key issues that affect us during the holiday season. Young people, in particular, are prone to a great deal of stress. Often two parents from separate households want to share their child simultaneously. The child is put into the awkward and untenable position of trying to please both parents. In the interim, while trying to share time with the child, each parent has a great deal of stress trying to pick up the child, get him back in time and often having to deal with a disgruntled ex-spouse.
The child becomes more like a vagabond or gypsy rather than enjoying wither of his tow families. It is important to understand that we cannot ask children to make an emotional transition form one household to another. Rather than holidays being joyous activities for these children, they become times of anguish as each parent wants the child to choos.e This becomes symbolic battleground and regrettable there are no winners.
If the young child celebrates at Mom’s house and then returns to Dad’s, it is difficult to share what happened over the past few hours. Even if the child wants to, he may that s/he is being disloyal to that parent that s/he just left. The child has to adapt and often becomes emotionally numb to protect agains potential pain.
So, as holiday season is upon us, there are two things to remember. One, there is often a lot of pain because of the mixed messages and feelings that are stirred up about our childhood. As we better understand our childhood and our families of origin and the complexities of our parents and our our relationships with our siblings, perhaps we can begin not to feel so empty and helpless in dealing with our families.
In addition. because divorce is a reality in American society, it is important that we reach out for our young people and not stretch them beyond their limits.
Children should be free to connect and be involved with both of their biological parents during the holidays. Younger children may have to be reminded that they can make a telephone call or send a card. Doing so will reduce their feelings of isolation and reiterate the message that they do not have to choosy sides.
In conclusion, the holidays are difficult times for all of us. We need to be conscious about what is being triggered off for ourselves as well as the needs of young people we care about. May your holidays be as stress free as possible.