Johnny Carson, the famous late night television host of the last generation, said the holidays are when we go home to be with our families to remember why we do it only once a year.
As if Christmas itself didn’t have enough pressure, adding the pressure of going home and being with our families in all of their dysfunction is enough to send a lot of us into a deep depression. Now, let’s understand—every family is dysfunctional. The only difference between families is HOW that dysfunction is manifested and the DEGREE to which that dysfunction affects the lives of the family members.
Now, understanding that and also knowing that most of our family members—barring a direct hit from a bolt lightening from God—won’t change, how do we prepare to go home for the holidays?
First, you have to make the decision of whether or not to go home for the holidays at all. Now, I know people are going to be mad if you don’t go home, but chances are the same people are going to be mad about something anyway. Does it really matter what they’re mad about? You can only answer for you. Is it in your best interest to go home? You can always choose to go another time. There’s no law that says you HAVE to go home. If going home is going to make you crazy, don’t go.
But if you do go, adjust your expectations. If your dad has never told he loved you, he probably won’t tell you this time either. If your mom doesn’t like your spouse, then she probably still doesn’t like her. There’s a reason Norman Rockwell painted those beautiful family scenes for Christmas; they don’t exist in real life. So understand your family is going to act just like they’ve always acted. You shouldn’t expect anything different.
- Protect your boundaries. (Henry Cloud’s book, Boundaries, is a classic on this issue.)
- Decide to be happy. (Yes, this is always your decision and yours alone.)
- Keep your focus on the real meaning of Christmas. It’s not about presents. It’s about Jesus.
And Jesus won’t mind if you stay home and have a quiet Christmas without all of the dysfunctional drama.