Home for the Holidays as an Adult
BY TAYLOR VEST
Returning home for the holidays as an adult can be exciting and nostalgic, with also feeling stressful and complicated. When we leave the home as teenagers, we enter the world to find our bearings, discover our passions and refine our sense of identity and purpose. After living out on your own, it can prove difficult for some to return home, even for brief periods such as holidays. After attending college and graduate school, I realized some of my core ideals had evolved dramatically from what my parents continue to believe. The topics of difference range from a political perspective to religion. As a social worker by trade, I have felt the pressure to “educate” my parents on my perspective and change of beliefs. Change of ideals and identity proved to be emotive for me and left me upset and crying many times when I would attempt to have difficult conversations with my family. While there are certainly times and places for such conversations, I decided for myself, personally, that holidays were not the time of place. Living out of town, I see my parents very little and do not want our time marked with discord and disagreement.
Below are some steps I took for a peaceful time with family:
1. Avoid controversial topics
If you find it emotionally draining and emotive to have difficult conversations, avoid controversial topics such as politics, religion, money, strained relationships. Do the best you can to keep time together positive and enjoyable. If you want to avoid controversial topics, say something like, “I really want us to enjoy our time together, and I think the best way for that to happen is for us to avoid topics like _____ ,_____ , and _____.” Save such conversations for phone calls when the environment is less emotionally charged with expectations.
2. Set boundaries
Tell your family the day you will be coming and the day you will be returning to your home. Be clear with expectations beforehand so that you can point back to the original conversation if you need to reinforce a boundary. If you need to leave early or remove yourself from situations, do what is best and most healthy for you.
3. Take breathers
Being in an environment that isn’t your own can be exhausting. If you’re returning to your childhood home, there can be a lot about the environment that can take you back to childhood. As adults, we have control of most every part of our day; when in other environments, we can suddenly lose that control over space, time, and schedule. We may be without a car or at the mercy of the family’s schedule. If possible, take a walk, offer to run an errand to pick up a missing ingredient – take time to ground yourself and check-in with a supportive person.
4. Focus on relationship
Remember that you want to have an enjoyable time and maintain positive relationships with your family members. Take time to reflect on their positives and that, despite different views, they are not malicious or bad-intending. Do what you can to maintain positive regard for them while balancing what is most healthy for you.
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