Dear Dr. Alfiee: Family Holidays are Coming… Help!

BlackLivesMatter
Family
Mental Health
Mental Illness
Multicultural Families
Parenting
Self-Care

I really hate going home for the holidays. My family is not accepting of me and they have really different political views from mine. Everything always turns into an argument and I feel really uncomfortable and unseen. What should I do? How do I cope when the holidays hurt?

Signed,
May I Please Join Your Family?

Dear May I Please Join Your Family:

First of all, you are welcome to celebrate with me virtually (visit my Instagram Page) and I am sending you only good wishes.

Now this is a really important question that I am sure loads of people have. I had the opportunity to talk with Molly Longman of Refinery29 about something similar (Link to that article is here). In that article, I focused on a few things that can best be summed up as setting boundaries

In many BIPOC families, we grow up with perfectly healthy boundaries that have sometimes been characterized as “enmeshed” or “permeable” by the mental health field.  I disagree with that characterization of us and want to share my ideas on boundaries from a culturally relevant perspective.  

First, it is important to remember to begin from a place of self-awareness that really centers your needs and desires in your communication and interactions with family.  What does this look like?  Well, it begins with you deciding to communicate in such a way that you encourage empathy from family members while you show empathy to them.  A firm boundary to set is that you will not have conversations where everyone knows at the outset that there are firm disagreements. 

As well, you establish that you will not tolerate disparaging remarks about your life or your life choices and you in turn will not make such comments toward family members. Starting from this place of empathy and valuing our loved ones, while teaching them how to value us, helps reduce the potential for harm and ongoing conflict.

Next, you want to do some background research. Pay close attention to your family’s conversations leading up to the holidays, who is mom planing to invite over (if anyone – because you know – COVID), and of that group coming over, is there anyone you already know you have diametrically opposed views from?  Is it possible for you to ask mom to just this year, NOT invite cousin Jay because he just makes you feel so unseen and unloved? 

Sometimes we think our loved ones already know how to take care of us (by just reading our minds) but often, we fail to realize that they have no idea how we feel or what we need.  So I am a firm believer in the idea that you must tell people what you need, then give them the option to respond to your request.  Either way they respond, you will have the information you need to know how to engage with them going forward.

Finally, after weighing these ideas, I want you to steady yourself for the coming visit.  You can do this by having crystal clarity about your intention for the overall holiday and family gathering. 

Set your intention (make it positive), practice how you will respond to any negative comments, remember to breathe, drop those shoulders (i.e. relax), spend time in quiet reflection and remind yourself that whatever you think will happen, will happen so why not focus on building positive outcomes for this year’s family holiday?

For the 2020 holiday season, I am sending you an extra dose of love and light,
Dr. Alfiee