Winter Holidays and Family Gatherings

 

Everything is set out in the stores, Thanksgiving, Hanukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice and all will all be alive and happening in the next month and a half.  My families traditions in Georgia, are to gather multiple times throughout the holiday to celebrate, give thanks and spend time with family.  However, the upcoming holiday season can be hard if you are transgender, queer, nonreligious and plan to visit non accepting family members for the holidays. It can be harder if you are not welcome to come home for the holidays.

Having a conversation

To make things easier, I always like to know upfront what is going to happen if possible in all situations.  I recommend having a conversation early with family about if you are welcome to come for your holiday celebrations. You probably know your family’s temperature, so you probably already know if it is going to be an issue.  If coming home is something you want to do, perhaps call your family and tell them, that you would like to be able to come to your celebration and you still care about them as their daughter, son, or in law.  Hopefully, they will be able to look past any differences and be welcoming.  But, be prepared for them to still not be welcoming. It’s helpful if you can tell yourself that they are the ones having trouble in the situation, and you are open to visiting.  If you have reached out, then you did a lot of the work.

Expecting respect

Sometimes, your family might invite you home, but decide not to use your pronouns or name. Ideally, you will be able to expect respect from your family.  I can’t tell you not to go home if they are disrespectful, because that is a personal choice with many layers involved including how much you want to see your family and where you and your family are in their level of respect for your life. If you are shopping with family, it’s okay to ask them not to point out clothes that you aren’t comfortable wearing to you.  It is okay to expect respect of your name, gender identity and pronouns from your family.

Have another plan

If it ends up that you won’t be visiting family for the holidays, have another plan of how to celebrate if you choose to.  You could invite your own friends to your home and have a potluck.  That way it will take off the stress and high cost of preparing an entire meal.  If you are a college student and are staying on campus for the holidays, you could spend this time exploring what your city has to offer.  Is there a park you always wanted to hike?  A place you wanted to go camping? If your pets mean a lot to you, perhaps plan a trip to the dog park or a cat cafe during break. You can begin to make your own traditions this year as well.  Maybe the new holiday tradition involve going to see a movie at your local theater, or volunteering for a local cause.

Expect the unexpected

If you are at home and tensions become to hard to bare, take some time to regroup.  Let your family know you need some time to yourself and take a walk around your property or street.  If you are able, take a ride share to a local coffee shop for some time alone. Try to find at least one family member that has your back, that you can relate to while you are home and spend time with them.  Perhaps it’s a sibling or grandparent? If you are sitting around the family table and a conversation becomes uncomfortable, excuse yourself from the table. It’s important that you take care of your own mental health during this time and don’t allow yourself to hear things that can be harmful to you.

Keep up with support

Keep up with your friends during the break.  Start a group chat or text with friends close to you for support.  Have a friend take pictures of what you miss back home and send them to you.  Bring your pet with you if possible, or ask your pet sitter to text you pictures of your furry animal.

If possible during the holidays, continue to see your therapist.  I offer online video therapy for clients who are unable to come in person, or who are traveling.  My schedule for the holidays is available online here.  You can also attend local support groups that are meeting for the holidays such as PFLAG.  Make plan with your therapist to go ahead and research groups in your home state or city so you can have them on hand when needed. Ask your therapist if you can drop them a check in email or have a planned phone call.

 

 

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