In healthy families, there are no expectations around the holidays. Family traditions and celebrations are fun and flexible. So, discussions about where and how to have family gatherings are simple and enjoyable.
However, in other families, holidays can be full of pressure. The discomfort often starts long before an event, in the planning stages. There's no room for personal opinion, and instead, everyone has to comply with unspoken obligations. My clients often grow up in families like these, where there's disconnect and emotional neglect. And even as adults, they struggle with voicing their opinions and sharing their feelings with their families.
Unhealthy Family Communication
When they do try to communicate with their families, they get dismissal or aggression in return. They also often experience passive-aggressive comments long after bringing an issue to the family's attention.
If you have a history of experiencing unhealthy communication with your family, you do not have to keep attempting a healthy conversation with them. Instead, you can observe your limits, spend your holidays how you want, and let your boundaries speak for you.
However, if you do want to try again, below are some ways of making your part of the communication healthy and assertive.
Use the Communication Skill of D.E.A.R. M.A.N.
D.E.A.R. M.A.N. is a skill my clients find most effective when practicing assertive communication. This acronym stands for the following:
- Describe situation
- Express feelings
- Assert your wishes
- Reinforce positive consequences
- Stay Mindful
- Appear confident
- Negotiate solutions
The skill can be used for situations like the one I describe above when there are overwhelming family holiday obligations and a person wants to speak about them assertively. Below is a sample script of what to say using this skill:
"When you expect me to be home for the holidays without talking to me about it, it's frustrating. I would like to discuss options instead. If you can listen, I will feel relieved, and it will be easier for me to find a way to make it back home."
When saying the above script, it's essential to focus on your goals and to use a confident tone of voice. For the negotiation part, focus on what will work for you regarding how you're willing to spend your holiday. However, your family respecting and listening to you is not negotiable.
Therapy Can Help Your Communication and Boundaries.
The DEAR MAN skill is a relatively straightforward concept, but the feelings it brings up are the challenging part. Therapy can help you identify and validate these feelings. Treatment can also help you regulate these feelings and improve your mental health overall.
The script above will help you increase your self-respect, but it doesn't guarantee that your family will respond well. Therapy can help you process any new hurt, as well as support you in healing from past experiences with your family.
Begin Working with a Therapist in Mahomet, IL
You deserve to spend the holidays in a comfortable environment with people you can be yourself with. If you want more information regarding family boundaries, please read my other posts on this topic. And if you want support in processing your feelings regarding family, schedule an appointment today. You can start your therapy journey with Live Lekko by following these steps:
- Take the step by calling or texting 217-402-7817
- Schedule your first appointment at my Illinois-based practice
- Start establishing healthier boundaries!
Other Services Offered in Illinois
People likely need support with more than one mental health concern at a time. This is why I'm happy to offer support with a variety of mental health services including counseling for women and grief and loss counseling. I also offer counseling for people-pleasing, anxiety treatment, and therapy for childhood emotional neglect. Whether you are in Peoria, Springfield, Mahomet, or somewhere in between in Illinois I can help with teletherapy. I look forward to hearing how I can help you. Please visit my blog to learn more!