Just in case visiting family during the holidays feels more like going to the dentist than “Joy to the World,” let me tell you how I handled this reality in my own life.
I decided to volunteer.
Let’s face it, not every family visit is functional. Why not take some of that time to feed the hungry or join a local nonprofit group that helps others during the holidays?
Volunteering my services during Christmas limited the amount of face-to-face time I spent with my family.
As controlling as my mother could be, she understood the importance of helping others less fortunate than we were.
I had a higher purpose, and our time together involved less friction — simply, I think, because we didn’t subject ourselves to overexposure.
My epiphany came a few years later.
After volunteering with feed-the-needy programs and Christmas caroling, I realized I had a higher level of patience and tolerance for others than I did for my immediate family. I had adopted an attitude of “being of service.”
If I could be of service to strangers, I wondered, could I not adapt the same principle to my own family?
So I decided to change my attitude. Before I visited my family, I would make up my mind to treat them as I was treating those strangers I had volunteered to help. I would be of service to my family — especially Mom.
I remember my very first visit with this new insight. I always brought treats that I knew Mom and the family would appreciate and decided I would see how I could help them.
I must say, things between us shifted.
I was no longer looking for the friction between us; I was just present and in the moment. I began to see her like those strangers I volunteered for. They were just people, in need of unconditional love.
I won’t lie and tell you all my family problems were solved. But I can tell you that being of service to your loved ones creates a powerful shift.
Please note that if your family system is clearly harmful to your spirit or physical well-being, I am not suggesting that you put yourself into harm’s way. I am speaking to those of us who know deep down inside that having a new perspective on our families could make a difference.
Personally, I found that I stressed less before I left the house to visit them, during our visit and afterward, too. Give it a try and you will know what I mean.
- Janet Janssen lives in Felton and is a life coach and certified hypnotherapist. She offers free webinars and workshops about stress release and mind clutter for individuals and small businesses. She can be reached at 335-0553 or firstname.lastname@example.org.