Divorce can make the holidays a difficult and confusing time for children and a stressful one for parents as old traditions fall apart, others are incorporated and new traditions are created. Everyone is adjusting to different schedules and travel and the stress can lead to more frank discussion from relatives who had kept quiet about true feelings for the the ex.
For college students who are heading back to different family structures, the stress of school may continue or worsen through the winter break and can be more difficult to cope with after coping with the fall semester away from home. And then another semester begins in a culture that accepts and, at times, promotes drinking and more.
For family members who have decided to come out to themselves or to some family members, they may find it is necessary to “go back into the closet” and face discomforting questions about being single or whether he or she or you are dating anyone. There may be openly hostile discussion about LGBTQ-identified people by some in the family that leads to feelings of danger.
It's important to maintain one's boundaries in these situations. Family gatherings should be joyful and there should be some topics that remain off the table. It's important to have your nuclear family on board with maintaining these boundaries when dealing with the extended family. It may not be easy to get this, but frank discussions about what everyone needs in these situations and what it means to each if those aren't upheld can go a long way. For an LGBTQ-identified person, finding an ally or being an ally can bring some safety during these situations until a more open discussion is safe.
Managing these issues alone in a nuclear family can be difficult. With extended family it can be more so. A family therapist can work with individuals or with the nuclear family around just these issues. The therapists at PhiladelphiaMFT have focused on this work throughout their training and provide an environment that is safe to discuss and resolve these family difficulties.
This topic of the week was written by Brian Swope, MFT