By Chelsey Byers
Do you dread the holidays because:
— You are you an adult who is single, and your family and friends wish you were happily coupled?
— You are a parent of an adult child wishing you had grandbabies?
— Every time you are gathered with family, you still feel judged for the life choices you made?
Time spent with families can be a big stressor during the holidays, sometimes even more than the hurried schedules, gifts to buy and wrap, food to cook and the money crunch that can come with this time of year.
Relationships differ from family to family. However, every family has its own unique relationship dynamics or situations that could cause some family members to dread the holidays.
To make the best of your time together, it might be wise to let go of past conflicts and the expectations unfulfilled and simply enjoy your visit, no matter how short.
We might have family members going through something challenging in their life that they really do not feel like discussing over the holidays.
For some, anticipating questions like: "Where are you going to college next year?" "Anyone special in your life?" or "When will there be babies?" can cause great anxiety leading up to and through the holidays.
You might feel that these are harmless questions to ask, yet to your loved one, they could be their worst fear.
For someone who's been trying to have a baby for months or even years, that question is just another dagger in the heart. They, too, may wish to be celebrating the season with a child(ren). There might be a medical reason that your family member has not had children or the timing is not right for them. In any case, it is unlikely that grandchildren are purposefully being withheld.
A similar situation could be true for single family members. By asking about a significant other, it might appear that you are devaluing the life they are living because they are not with someone. They might be perfectly happy on their own.
Or they might wish to be with someone special, and seeing family members and friends paired up could already be difficult enough over the holidays. Inquiring questions about their love lives could make them uncomfortable.
For some, the holidays can highlight a difficult year. The loss of a job or loved one, depression or any variety of life events may have caused a challenging year. Don't treat them as if they're broken or fragile. Be sensitive and empathetic, but try to treat them like everyone else, so they do not feel singled out.
So whether your family resembles the Rockwells or the Griswolds, remember what is important over the holidays and enjoy the time you have with the people that you care about. Focus on all that you do have rather than what is missing.
Respect the choices that loved ones have made in their lives — and celebrate where they are today. Be generous and compassionate with each person, even the family members who tend to rub you the wrong way at family gatherings. They could be experiencing their own challenges.
For more information on family life-related topics visit the University of Illinois Extension website at web.extension.illinois.edu/cfiv/ or contact Chelsey Byers at 333-7672 or email@example.com.