How to Combat Holiday Chaos with Little Moments of Connection
Do you ever come back from staying with family for the holidays and think, “Well, the kids had a great time, but that was really hard for us to just sit back and enjoy it all”?
Does it feel like you barely even saw your partner, and when you did, you both were just getting annoyed with each other?
Maybe you're already in the thick of it now. Or, prepping for upcoming travel to get the holidays started.
With the increase of travel, extended family dynamics, and close-quarters accommodations, the holidays can be like a pressure cooker for our relationships.
Now, I can’t discuss all the ins-and-outs of all those family dynamics and how to navigate each one in a single blog post, BUT--
I CAN tell you about some ways that you can stay in-tune with your partner during this beautiful, amazing, crazy-making time when you’re crashing on the air mattress at your mother-in-law’s house after spending 22 hours in various airports and only had two diaper explosions to deal with…. 😳😂
So, you guessed it--that’s what I’m sharing in this week’s video below!
4 tips for keeping tabs on how you & your partner are feeling while spending the holidays with your family--Even when you can't get a moment of alone time.
Scroll down and have a watch, or read the transcript.
Then, quick—schedule time to talk about a game plan with your partner before the holidays are over! There’s still time!
WATCH THE VIDEO:
This video previously aired as a Facebook Live. You can follow Happy With Baby on Facebook to catch all their live videos here.
Hey there. So it's the holiday season and I feel like nothing says holiday more than family.
Hi, I'm Catherine I'm happy with baby and today I'm talking about how best to deal with families over the holiday season.
And I've decided that this is a good topic because I've had several conversations in the past few weeks here in my therapy office here in Sacramento, California and most of them revolve around how to cope or deal with the stressors that come with families during the holidays. And I know sometimes that can bring up good emotions and sometimes not so good emotions.
I've been having lots of conversations with clients here in my practice in Sacramento, California even since before Thanksgiving about the challenges that they have with their families and how they are going to coordinate the holidays. Are they going to family? Are they not going to see family? And then dealing with how they are going to manage that with their partners and their children.
And I was having a conversation and one of my assistants was telling me that it seems like you can't be close to someone without them getting on your nerves sometimes. And I think in the context of our conversation we were talking more about the people that you live with, whoever that might be, but I think that definitely is impactful with family members whether that's your parents, siblings, aunts and uncles, whoever that might be. And I know that when you spend time with people and they're not you, their little quirks and things can definitely get on our nerves.
I also know that under the holiday stressors it can even be more difficult--their quirks and things and the way they do things or say things or whatever--can be more annoying or frustrating or even make us angry at times. Sometimes if family members are coming to visit from out of town or you're going to visit them being in the same house together, it can definitely get a bit crowded. And it can be really hard to maintain your own personal space or even find places to retreat for your own time and kind of decompress from whatever situations because there always seems to be a family dinner or sometimes people might pop in because they know you're visiting or they know you have visitors. The kids might end up with some extra sugar so they'll feel more hyper than normal or just acting out by just having all of the company and attention. I know kids can seems to get a lot more energy.
And for many of us, we revert back to our old childhood roles with our siblings and our parents when we're around them. And sometimes things happen where we get into arguments or disagreements with other family members. Maybe things get petty between you and your sister when you're around each other more than a day or two, or your mom is nagging you about how to do this or that and you think, “how do I survive when you're not around?” and then there's that one elephant in the room that nobody's talking about, but you can feel it all around. There's just a lot going on in one house.
Now I don't know about you, but I know often for my partner and I, when holidays and stuff come around, that’s when we start to get on each other's nerves.
Or when we have to pack and we're getting ready to go, it seems like tension flares as the stressors of knowing what's to come or just trying to get ready and make sure that we get out on time. So when we're thrown into that kind of situation it seems like we lose a bit of connection with each other and we get more snappy and irritated. And it's only temporarily, but still. It's definitely a stressful time of year and it can make the holidays less fun when it's supposed to be a lot of fun and one of the happiest times of the year.
This is when bickering and fighting can start or you might just feel like you're not even seeing much of your partner while you're on vacation. That's what I'm here to talk about today. What can you do about this? How can you either avoid these situations or help handle them a little bit better?
#1. Is the holidays really the best time to visit?
Now, for some people will say, “Yes, absolutely. This is the only time we can go. This is when we want to do it.” But for other people, it’s like, “Maybe this isn't the best time and maybe we want to reconsider.”
Is it important for you to show up for your kids and visit Grandma at this time of year? Or maybe for some people they'll decide, you know what, it's a better time to visit in the summer or in the spring when the weather is better and we can do more things there and there's less people around. So we get more quality time with our family members, plus the stakes are lower and there's less stress and we have a more enjoyable time with our family and for ourselves.
Now I talked a lot about this a couple of weeks ago when I talked about how to kind of create the holidays you want. So you might want to check out that video too. And so, if this is the only time and this is the best time for you to go, then you definitely want to talk about it with your partner, about what is it that you want to happen for this holiday. What are the experiences that you want to make sure that your children get? And make sure that you're actually listening to each other and acknowledging what the other person is saying.
#2 While you are there at your parents house or whoever you are visiting for the holidays, and maybe your partner starts to get a little bit snarky or snappy with you, try to step back and remember, “This isn't necessarily about me.”
They could be having a hard time being around fill-in-the-blank: their racist uncle, their mom that nags them, their father who's always criticizing them, their brother who's always in competition, having a mom that never helps out. Whatever it is, it could be more about that.
Or maybe they're an introvert and they’re fatigued from being in the spotlight as a visitor. Or their neck hurts from sleeping on an air mattress for the last couple of days. You never know. So take a step back and think about, “what is it that's really happening? Is this about me or is this something else?”
#3 Find ways to “steal time” with each other.
Now this is one of my favorite things because I think we get caught up in everything that we have to do or expectations other people have for what we need to do when we're visiting them, but this can also be a good opportunity for you to make time for each other as a couple, especially if you don't typically have a good support system where you live because all your family does live out of town.
Or maybe you decide to go for a walk together as a couple, or maybe even go solo because you need some time to decompress from being around everybody.
Maybe you decide to go ahead and “go to bed early”, and then you and your partner can go to bed and you guys can talk about everything that's happening or just making time to reconnect with each other and kind of decompress from the day, about everything that's been happening. And maybe this is also time you can check in, like “Hey, I've kind of noticed you're getting a little bit snappy. What's going on with that?” if you haven't been able to talk about it sooner.
Or maybe you're able to ask your parents or your relatives to watch your baby or your kids while you guys might even be able to go out for a date.
And maybe you can find things to do as a family, but not necessarily with everyone around. So for example, maybe you and your partner say like, “Hey, we'll go ahead and make breakfast. Go ahead and leave us to it.” You guys can be, you know, in the other room doing whatever. And then grandparents can be watching the kids while you and your partner are making breakfast. That could be something fun. Then you're spending quality time together doing something productive and not necessarily having to deal with all the other people that are coming in.
Or maybe you and your partner offered to wrap all the presents if they haven't been wrapped. And that means of course you have to be in the other room without the kids and stuff around. Because you know, Santa is coming.
Or sometimes it's go where it's easier. I know a guy that will always opt to play with the kids because it's easier and less stressful to be around the kids than it is always to be talking and chatting with all the adults and dealing with some of their judgments and stuff like that. So he'll decompress by playing with the kids, which can definitely make things nice.
#4 Find ways to make sure that your partner knows that you're thinking about them when you travel.
Like if you can, figure out what your partner's love language is, if you haven't already. There's a great website called the five love languages and you can even go on there and take their quiz to figure out what your love language is. And then, think of ways that you can speak to that language now. Like find reasons that you can touch or make eye contact. Now I'm not talking about sexual touch or bedroom eyes at that point, but just ways that you can make sure that, hey we're connecting with each other in these moments. John Gottman would call this a “bid” for attention.
But be aware that sometimes you actually have to name what you're doing because maybe your partner doesn't identify that that's what's happening. So let them know, like “Hey, when I do this I want you to know like I'm thinking of you or I notice what's happening and I want you to know that I have your back.” For example, when I put my hand on your back when you're washing dishes, I'm not trying to tell you that you're in the way. I just want to be connected with you and let you know that I notice what you're doing.
And maybe you can find a verbal code word that only the two of you know or a joke or something, so if things get to be too much or you're feeling frustrated or you've had enough of what is happening you can share the code word and your partner knows like, “OK, I need a break. I need a tag out of this situation” and you can help support each other in that.
So I know the holidays are a joyful time of year, but I know they can also be a really difficult time of year so make sure that you are able to get the support that you need that you and your partner are able to talk about those things.
And I hope that this holiday season is a joyful one. And until next time, take care.
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