As the holidays approach each year, we’re presented with a challenge that terrifies, frustrates, and depresses many people. TV commercials and magazine ads show us idyllic images of smiling families circled around a table set with exquisite china and the most beautiful turkey imaginable. The families pray, hug, laugh, and are role models for etiquette.

Then we get to Aunt Mildred’s house on Christmas, and she’s already tense when we walk in the door. Uncle Bill grunts a greeting, grabs his fourth beer of the afternoon, and disappears into the garage. All the young cousins alternate between arguing, whining, and telling on each other. Our irresponsible brother and his stuck-up third wife don’t even show up until just before dinner’s ready. Well, almost ready. The turkey has been sitting there drying out while Aunt Mildred tries to finish the potatoes and green beans, and she’s using words we’ve never heard her utter. Nobody remembers to say grace, and before the rolls make it all the way around the table, Uncle George and our college-age niece are shouting at each other about Trump and Clinton. Cousin Marian drops Mildred’s favorite casserole dish, and it shatters on the kitchen floor, spraying everyone’s favorite pumpkin-spice dessert in every direction. Finally, when we’re sure we’ve escaped with what little remains of our sanity, one of the kids throws up in the minivan five minutes before we pull in the driveway.

If all that sounds just a little too familiar, no need to feel bad. Few families manage to achieve perfection for the holidays. We create amazingly high expectations, but the simple fact is that we’re all ordinary people facing daily challenges. Add in the stress of the holidays and a break from our daily routines, and you have a recipe for turning long-simmering disagreements into large arguments. People eat too much, and many of them drink too much, and that fuels the dysfunction and despair.

We get to choose our friends, but we’re born into our families, and that isn’t always easy. Childhood slights can mature into adult arguments. Strained parent-child relationships can shift into new problems as we reach adulthood. No matter how much we want everyone to change, the only thing we can control is the way we react and respond to their behavior.

If the holidays are a time of struggle for you and your family, if seeing Uncle George’s face reawakens childhood trauma, if sibling rivalry has gone from fighting over toys to fighting over Mom’s health, or if this time of year makes you blue when you really want to be joyful, we can help. We can guide you through the process of mending long-fractured relationships, overcoming old hurts that cause renewed pain, learning how to stand up for yourself, and defining boundaries that protect you and your children.

You might be surprised what some time with a counselor can do to completely change the way you see this time of year. And by next Christmas, you may approach the holidays with eagerness instead of trepidation!

Contact us if you’d like to work through the anxiety you might feel during the holidays.

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