Whether we visit our elders or they come to stay with us, do we look forward to our time together?
The festive holiday season is perhaps a time that demands more of us than almost any other time of the year (the second being summer holidays). Why is this?
The impact on household finances because of expectations in terms of consumer spend?
The time required to carry out those extra shopping trips, or time spent online these days?
The pressures of work and our attempts to get the ‘desk’ cleared before a break?
The increase in demands as a service or goods provider?
A time where for some (many), they are lonely, destitute, perhaps without a home?
Perhaps a loss affects them?
This post is for those who would bemoan time with parents and other elders.
Being thrown together at a time when demands appear high is a primary cause for mindless and judgemental attitudes to prosper - and helped in no small way once the alcohol begins to flow!
A more mindful approach might be to consider our own expectations, and those of our guests and hosts. If we choose time to be ‘close’ to others for whom we ordinarily don’t spend time with, why would we believe all will run smooth - and everyone’s needs will be met?
Do we genuinely want to spend time with them? Or, is it ‘expected?
If we have a view, correctly or otherwise, that we were harmed by our parents in the past, what is it we are unable to resolve, and do we need to forgive? Do we need to reconcile differences? Is it that the parent/s are unwell themselves with conditions such as narcissism - and will likely never change?
We have choices, yet often we behave as if there are no options available.
For those who wish to compassionately challenge the status-quo, we can look more deeply at some other considerations.
“There’s no such thing as a grown-up!”
In the past I have often mentioned in parenting blogs about the value of engagement for both individuals when we observe with our senses – the child engaging with us.
I offer that you can look, really look at their eyes, and listen without ‘hearing so as to reply’, so they truly know there is attention for them. They are being honoured with your attention and as a result can infer that they, and what they think and feel, matters. A fundamental rule of parenting.
Well, it’s much the same for your parents and other elders.
Wonder if you can see them, really, really ‘see’ them – and listen with interest so there can be no doubt you are truly honouring their presence and what they have to say.
Children ‘act up’ when their needs are not being met, and so do adults of all ages, and this can become habitual.
We react to what we expect, year-after-year without sincere and honest conversation.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
Remember, the elder was once a child and although the body is no longer youthful, the mind, perceptions, and behaviours usually remain much the same when they feel ‘emotional pain’; it’s just that we judge on the one hand “You should know better, Mum/Dad!", and on the other, "Why don’t they act more adult? (Like me!)".
This holiday season, if you visit others or have guests why not see if you can create a fresh canvas to engage from with the elders.
Ask, with sincere interest, what it’s like to be them and what they think they might like, to be happier? What they have to say about their experiences, especially if they normally say ‘the same old thing’. This time, really, really engage - and listen - and ask questions. Often, people say the same things because they haven’t felt acknowledged.
Then, gauge the visit and reflect what this occasion felt like. It’ll perhaps inform you for next time!
Painful Feelings Unaddressed in Your Family: Emotionally neglectful families by definition don’t express, talk about or address their members’ feelings adequately. This leaves lots of conflicts and issues unresolved and buried. Now you will be joining your family at a special gathering for the holidays. Unfortunately those pushed-down, unresolved emotions are still there, under the surface. And they can make your family holiday gathering unpredictable and inexplicably painful. - Jonice Webb PhD
Here are two articles to help you understand what’s happening in your family, and know how to cope with it:
Stressful Family? 10 Mantras to Get You Through the Holidays
Bob Brotchie is a British counsellor providing private services to clients in the privacy, and comfort, of a truly welcoming environment at his company office. He can be found at Anglia Counselling Ltd, located near Newmarket in Suffolk (GB). Bob also provides counselling, online, for international clients all around the world.
Therapeutic models are often centred around mindfulness, with clients finding 'peace' via the integration of Psychotherapy and Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) principles.