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How Sandwiched Boomers Can Reduce Family Holiday Stress

Feb 14, 2008
Is the widespread commercialism of the holidays getting you down? How would you like to spend less time racking up credit card debt and more time putting heart into your relationships? It's important to appreciate the traditions of giving and receiving. But the accumulation of stuff can't hold a candle to the gift that matters most. This year, recreate the joy of simpler days by giving the priceless gift of connection to your family.

There's a lot riding on family time during the holidays and this can create stress for everyone. With blended families, there's the challenge of logistics - trying to accommodate so many others' needs and still not compromise your own. And when family members live in different cities, it's hard to decide which is more difficult - going back home or having them on your turf. Of course, there are the ghosts of holidays past, coupled with the expectations of today - sometimes unrealistic and often unfulfilled.

So, how can you stop the inertia and catapult yourself off the couch, into the action? The following eight tips will help you develop a plan to restore balance to your relationships during the holidays:

1. Realize that the anticipatory anxiety you are experiencing is quite normal. Questions about what to do and how to do it - with the apprehension that goes along for the ride - are common for a lot of families at this time of year.

2. If you're traveling home to your parents, remember to pack your patience. Old family dynamics and unfinished business are bound to surface. Make a decision this year to leave behind the baggage that is too large to fit in the overhead compartment.

3. Explore the possibility of your out of town guests staying in a hotel. After the discomfort of bringing up the idea, it actually might be a relief for all of you; and the beginning of a welcome new family tradition.

4. You don't have to be all things to all people all the time. If Aunt Sue doesn't get along with Uncle John's second wife, make it easier on yourself and stagger their holiday visits.

5. If you get into a conflict with a family member who is unreasonable, don't take the bait. Despite how hard it may be, go for the higher ground and walk away.

6. With a relationship that matters to you, take the time to bury the hatchet. If in the past you have gone underground and then blown up later, don't let these feelings fester. Acknowledge the part that you play in the conflict and deal with it now, once and for all.

7. Whether family members are with you in person or in your memories, learn the power of letting go of childhood pain and longings. Forgiveness becomes a gift for both of you.

8. Recall what you love about your family and let them know how grateful you are to have them in your life. Point out their positives qualities rather than focusing on the negatives.

Perhaps you don't have many models for repairing the family and may have to make it up as you go along. Trust yourself in the process - often the messiness of emotions leads to understanding yourself and others better. Conflict can serve as an invitation to grow when you honor the importance of relationships. A lot of people feel that, with family, there are no returns or exchanges even with a gift receipt. So embrace the holiday season and rejoice in the love, support and connection of your family relationships.

2007, Her Mentor Center
About the Author
Phyllis Goldberg, Ph.D. & Rosemary Lichtman, Ph.D. are founders of http://www.HerMentorCenter.com, a website for midlife women and http://www.NourishingRelationships.Blogspot.com, a blog for the Sandwich Generation. They are authors of a forthcoming book about Baby Boomers and family relationships. They offer free newsletter Stepping Stones.
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