When “Home For the Holidays” Doesn’t Feel Like A Break: Difficult Family Relationships

For many people, the break between the fall and spring term at school is a welcome chance to rest, recharge, and reconnect with family. However, sometimes it isn’t that simple. Over the next few days, we’d like to provide some suggestions and resources that might help you with common problems that people face year-round, but may find to be especially burdensome during a time when so many people feel pressure to have “perfect” families and family moments.

Today, let’s talk a bit about some problems that might arise if there are issues affecting family relationships…

Past or on-going abuse (physical, sexual, or emotional)

Messages about the value of family are common throughout the year, but they are especially pervasive at this time. Sadly, though, sometimes the people who you should have been able to trust the most turn out to be the ones who hurt you the most. Whether through criminal acts of overt abuse or more subtle on-going attempts to use emotions in a hurtful way, many people go home for the holidays with a sense of dread because of dysfunctional or abusive family relationships. Sometimes the bad feelings or abuse originate from only one person in the family that everyone fears, and sometimes it’s a free-for-all where everyone in the family lashes out.

For an adult person whose family dynamics are a source of pain and sadness, one of the possibilities to consider is to simply not go home. Staying where you are or going to spend time with sympathetic friends or family members who are more supportive might be the simplest option. However, that may not be practical for various reasons, such as if the family members you have a hard time dealing with have some control over your finances, or if you just can’t bring yourself to skip out on the family gathering, no matter how painful it might be.

In that case, you might benefit from trying to prepare yourself mentally and emotionally for the potential issues you are likely to face during this visit. One way to do this is to try and brace yourself to deal with certain types of people. You might also find some useful advice for different scenarios here.

Whatever path you choose, just remember that you are a valuable person who deserves to be treated with respect, and no-one has the right to hurt or abuse you. If you need someone to talk to about difficulties with your family during the holidays, you may benefit from calling a service like ULifeline or another hotline that might fit your particular needs.

How would you say or do to help a friend who was dreading going home for break?

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