The holiday season can be a very difficult time for parents whose sons and daughters are engaging in destructive, unwise behaviors or suffer with a mental illness. They’d rather skip it . Too hard. Too many memories. Is that you? Listen to me – we only set ourselves up for more pain, disappointment and heartache if we don’t think about it ahead of time. We can become quite depressed if we aren’t careful. The best thing we can do is to think about our expectations and get our hearts ready. The following three questions are very helpful to prepare your heart for this time of year.
1) How do you think the holidays might be difficult for you?
Some dread them, wondering if there will be yet another crisis. Then there’s the empty place at the table. The absence of their presence. They anticipate the discomfort of family members asking awkward questions. “How is ______ doing? What are they up to these days? Where are they?” Anticipate how you will respond. Then realize you need to appreciate what you have with them right now (or without them) and stop talking about how it once was. Don’t dwell on past memories (good or bad). Be thankful for what is, then focus on making new memories.
2) What might help? How do you need to adjust your expectations?
Focus on loving them and forgiving them – just as they are today. Accept what is. Let go of the Walton Family Christmas fantasy. It’s not real. Be flexible with your plans and expectations. Hold them loosely. Lower them. Change them. Let them go. Consider doing things differently this year. Start a new tradition. Look for a way to give of yourself – your time, your energy and abilities to someone in need. It will surprise you how much better you’ll feel when you shift the focus off yourself. It’s a great reminder that you’re not alone. Many others are struggling, too. It’s truly in giving that we receive. It’s a natural way to improve your mood by releasing endorphins in your brain. You can’t lose!
3) How might gift giving be different?
If your loved one is abusing substances or involved in illegal activities, don’t give cash or gifts that may be too easily returned for cash.
Give less if it seems appropriate. In some cases gift cards are a good option. But be aware that some cards allow you to make a small purchase, then get the rest of the cash back. Avoid that kind. You might shop at thrift stores where your gift can’t be returned. You might consider taking them shopping to let them select their own gift, then get coffee or a bite to eat afterwards. Letting them shop for themselves protects you from being hurt if they don’t like what you bought.
This Bible verse has meant a lot to me:
“Forget the former things, do not dwell on the past; see I am doing a new thing. . .” (Isaiah 43:18-19)
Oh God, help us anticipate what might be difficult for us this year, let go of our expectations, then consider what we might do differently. We need you. This is very painful. We aren’t strong enough to do it on our own. Please guide and comfort. We look to you for wisdom. Thank you for caring about us and our children. Amen.
In my next blog I will have two more questions for you to consider with another Scripture I’ve found encouraging. With these insights and preparations you can survive and even enjoy the holidays. If I did, you can, too.