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Holidays Without Family

It’s hard to watch clients sink into despair about wanting to spend the holidays with family who aren’t very nice to them and who are, frankly, toxic to be around. Clients could feel joyous and proud choosing to be with healthy, loving friends without fear of family dynamics ruining “normal” eating or a good time, but instead, yearn desperately for a happy, functional family that never was or will be. This is a natural concern for folks in their 20s who are just breaking away from home and learning to be independent, but it’s downright self-destructive for people who are older and who need to move on.

This blog is for all of you who have yet to emotionally separate from your families, particularly your parents. Separation means viewing them from a mature perspective, ie, adult to adult. You recognize their strengths and weaknesses, no longer expect them to gratify your emotional wishes or become better parents or human beings, and accept them as they are. You don’t have to like or love them or be in their company. Separation means that you no longer need them because you have contemporaries and other people who meet your emotional needs better than family ever could or will.

If you have parents or relatives around whom you don’t feel great, it’s time to stop wanting them or your relationship to improve. Especially during this season, most of us get into this nostalgic, wistful, wishful thinking, fantasy mode. What with ads showing smiling families around a dinner table, schmaltzy movies and TV shows, and people heading home for the holidays, we may think something is wrong with us if we don’t choose to be with family. What is wrong is generally not with us but with them when they don’t treat us lovingly or kindly. To be honest, some of us have pretty disturbed families which are nearly impossible to be around and remain sane!

So rather than sulk, fume, whine, or get depressed, accept that your family will never appear on a Hallmark card and that you are likely better off spending the holidays alone or with friends who make you happy. Some of you are still stuck in victim mode and others are frightened to upset family members. Letting go of this fantasy and deciding to surround yourself with love and emotional functionality rather than angst and dysfunction is a giant step. Your family members may not care for your decision, but so what. YOU’RE A GROWN UP! WHAT THEY THINK ABOUT YOUR CHOICES DOES NOT MATTER. It’s time to make healthy decisions to improve your life and your eating. In order to give yourself the best shot at “normal” eating this holiday season, make sure you’re doing it in a pleasant, nurturing, loving, welcoming, supportive environment.