Dreading going home for Christmas

Every time I go home I feel bad. After being away from home for so long, I feel confident, have good friends and am working at doing well in studies. My parents don’t see that, they find out what’s wrong and make it worse. My brother does not seem to care and sister barely speaks. I just used to feel bad and say things I regretted, then take months to find myself after Christmas, is it worth it?

Christmas and family gatherings can be tricky for many of us. That becomes more difficult if your parents highlight negatives when you would like them to appreciate how well you are doing. Because of the emotional bond and the significant history between you, what they say can hurt even if you know it is unreasonable.

What about not going home? Can you find a reasonable excuse? Remembering that as an adult you can make this choice for yourself. Just consider how you will manage your feelings and how you will manage the possible reactions of family members?

The alternative is to look at how to get through the time with them. Here are some ideas:

– Work out in advance exactly how long you will spend there and communicate this early.

– Manage your emotions actively, take time out, go for a walk, call a friend or any other practical idea you can think of (make a list before you go home). Staying in touch with good friends while away can be a good reminder of who you are away from your family.

– Make sure you spend a good deal of time alone, reading or listening to music, or out of the house going for a walk or swim. This will balance some of the uncomfortable social times

– Observe how your siblings appear to manage, they may have developed some useful strategies that you can adopt. Try to engage with your siblings on something you have in common, or an enjoyable way to pass the time (movies, games etc.)

– Think out some ways in advance that you can respond to your parents’ criticism, as emotions often take over in the moment, making it hard to respond calmly and clearly. Being clear about what your boundaries are is important. You don’t have to accept hurtful behaviour, even from family.

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