The Holidays Are Upon Us

By Dr. Rusty Sieck, Executive Pastor of Ministries


The holidays are upon us, where we will gather this Thanksgiving and Christmas with family and friends with the assumption that we will enjoy our time together.  Too often, in many families, this is not the case.  Conflict or unresolved issues from the past often cause tension, stress, and, to be honest, an outright disdain at times for one another.   I hope this is not you and your family, but if you dread this festive get-together, you are not alone.   In fact, in a poll conducted by OnePoll and commissioned by Motel 6, 75% of Americans admit they need to escape family during the holidays. The survey also found respondents can spend an average of three hours and 54 minutes with their family before needing a moment to themselves. 


Why do I bring all this up? I want to provide you with some helpful life hacks to help you have a blessed time this Thanksgiving and Christmas with your family.  


1. Don't deny your situation.  If there is a stressor or an unresolved issue in your family, be aware that it probably won't be resolved over turkey and opening Christmas presents.  The key is to keep the peace, and that means you might need to deflect. That doesn't mean you ignore it forever but make a commitment to set up a time after the holidays have passed to sit down and discuss the elephant that's been in the room.  Try to resolve the issue so that future celebrations will not cause tension in your family.


2. Have a united game plan. This means if you are married, you must agree on how you will handle whatever stressor that might exist.  Part of that game plan is to be real with one another about your feelings.  It is important to note that your feelings are your feelings, whether they are justified or not.  We must start with acknowledging how we each feel to move to resolution.  A very important thing to understand is that you no longer take the sides of either of your parents but that you take your spouse's side. When you were married, the most important family relationship is now yours.  Your extended family is always secondary.  Have guidelines that you agree upon before you travel about how you will interact about the difficult situation.  That means setting up boundaries like not talking about politics or whatever hot button issues you have in your family. 


3. Focus on the good – Often, we let the negative dominate. It is what we allow to occupy our minds. In fact, we typically play out the negative outcomes even before we arrive.  Start with a positive attitude, keep a positive focus, and don't let yourself get caught in a negative spiral. Yes, that means we must be the bigger person. We must be the adult in the room even when no one else wants to. No matter how bad or tense the situation is, we can always be grateful for something, so find it and think upon it.  If there is nothing, then remember that God has called us to love others as he has loved us, unconditionally.


4. Take breaks – Yes, take breaks, get away from each other for a few hours.  Go shopping, get a coffee, bowling so that you have some downtime from your family.  Family is great, but we aren't meant to spend every waking moment with one another. Even Jesus left the disciples and crowds in the morning and evening to get recharged by talking with God through prayer. We all need healthy breaks. This hack will make your celebrations so much more enjoyable. 


5. If you are traveling, don't stay with your family if you can afford to stay at a hotel. There is nothing more stressful than not getting good sleep. And I haven't met many people who travel to family events and have a bed for everyone. People end up sleeping on couches, blow-up mattresses, and the floor. I'm sorry, but that will only make you more cranky and stressed because of the lack of sleep.  So, if possible, stay at a hotel or a VRBO. If available to you, a creative idea is to talk with friends in the location you are traveling who are traveling to see if you can stay at their house. They probably have pets and are looking for a pet sitter anyway. It's a win, win and you get your retreat to take your break from the merriment of your family times. This is a great way to save money and help your friends out by watching their place. 


These hacks are just to get you started thinking about ways to make your Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations truly a time of celebration. Get that game plan fixed and enjoy the season.