Sunday, November 13, 2016

The approach of the Holidays

The holiday season is approaching, which means we will be spending an increased amount of time with family and loved ones. While these times are often lovely, they can be a cause of great distress too. It helps, as Thanksgiving approaches, first, to consider how we will manage the visit with great care and healthy boundaries.

Suppose you’re a relative is visiting and wants to help prepare the meal - just like last year and the year before, but this person interrupts your routine and occasionally takes over. The person acts out of goodwill but is often off-target of your expectations.

To prevent this, let the person know as early as this weekend that you have specific tasks you would like the person to do at particular times so you may maintain the orderly flow of your home. It gives valuable input on helpful ways to contribute, rather than pitching in as one thinks best. It also gives the person something to look forward to doing and then feeling pleased about one’s successful involvement.

Over-communicate about your boundaries and expectations. Be as firm as you can with kindness and let the person know what you want. If the person does not accept “no” for an answer, simply say “stop.” People hear “stop” differently from “no.” For some, “no” means “yes,” but “stop” means “stop.” Express your feelings to the person about their behavior and ask them if they will “stop” for your sake. A person might get offended, but remembering they are offending you if they do not stop. Be kind to the person and let them know that it comes from a loving place.

Set the routine around the house. Communicate in advance when you want people to arrive and the time for them to leave. If you want help with dishes, ask specific people to help you with this task. Give to the work-avoidant person a simple job to keep them out of the flow of activities.

If you want to eat at the table without television distractions, do let your guests know the television will be turned off fifteen minutes before mealtime. You know it will take them a while to move from the TV room to the dining room table.

It might feel odd to communicate these activities to others if you have not ever done it before, but you will be pleased with the results. Don’t feel bad about it. Get done what you need to make the whole effort enjoyable for you and your guests. You will not feel officious and you do not have to do all these things on Thanksgiving Day. Simply begin to move towards communicating what you want and need for the holidays. As you get into this custom and people learn of your boundaries, you all will feel much happier because expectations are clear.

Incorporate meaningful rites and customs. If you want to remember a deceased family member or loved on a specific day, let people know in advance that you intend to do it in a specific way. Put together a pray sheet so others know what is coming and find ways to incorporate their thoughts and feelings.

Be as specific as possible about what you would like someone to bring to the meal. The worst advice is: "Surprise me." The best is being specific. To ask someone to bring "cheese and crackers" does not communicate your expectations well at all. Instead, ask someone to bring precisely what you want: 1/2 pound of Vermont Cabot Swiss Cheese and two boxes of Nabisco Wheat Thins with parmesan peppercorn cheese flavoring. Take the surprise element out of it and ask for what you want.

Watching weight. We overeat at Thanksgiving because everyone wants us to eat what they bring. Make certain to communicate your meal expectations to others so you can respect your desires and you can lessen the offense they may feel. You are not responsible for the feelings on others. Negotiating food boundaries is important. The hardest part is communicating your needs in a way that you are heard and respected.

Enjoy the holiday – as stress free as you can make it.

Many blessings to you.

Fr. John