“Our families are opportunities for us to grow” (Brooke Castillo)
Are you aware of the thoughts you have about your (extended) family?
The importance of what we think and feel about our family relationships and how we act when we are with our family is not restricted to a certain time of the year, of course.
But what we think about (our) family is especially important at the end of the year, or during other festive seasons, when most of us find themselves involved and engaged in an increased number of often very traditional family events and gatherings.
Our thoughts trigger our feelings which create our actions which finally create the results in our life.
So whatever we think about our family and the individual family members will determine what we feel and do when we are with them.
Consider these questions related to (your) family:
- What does the word ‘family’ mean to you? What does it mean when you relate it to your family?
- What do the various family roles like ‘mother’, ‘father’, ‘sister’, ‘brother’, ‘uncle’, ‘grandmother’, etc. mean to you? What do they mean when you relate them to your mother, your father, your sister, etc.?
- What are the unquestioned obligations, traditions, expectations related to your family that deserve some questioning?
If you take the time to really think about it and to write down any thoughts coming up in your mind – are those thoughts something you consciously decided to think?
And do you like your thoughts? Do they feel good? Are they helpful and do they serve you and your relationships with your family?
Now, when you go and attend a family event, like Christmas dinner with your family of origin, and you bring along your thoughts about your family and its members – do your thoughts create positive emotions and activities and experiences for you (and your family)?
Most people approach the festive season with a mixture of feelings: love and connection, excitement and anticipation, but probably also nervousness or stress, or boredom, or even anxiety or resentment.
A recipe for successful relationships – Drop your expectations
Awareness and courageous decisiveness is all we need if we want to make positive changes, in any area of our life.
As soon as we become aware of our current thoughts and evaluate what we like or don’t like about them, we can decide what we want to think (and feel and do) in future.
We can’t control and change other people – if we expect family members to change their behaviour or if we expect them to change their expectations of us, we set ourselves up for disappointment.
But we have 100% control of our thoughts, feelings and actions.
And this means that we have control of our experiences – our experiences of the relationships we have with our family members and our experiences of the events we share with them.
So how do you want your experiences of the holidays with family to look like?
What do you most desire when it comes to your family?
How do you want to experience the family gatherings and the time you share with each individual family member?
Make a plan and create a list of the things you want to think, feel and do to make this year’s holidays with family a success for yourself (and probably automatically also for others).
Consider these examples to get you going:
- If your Aunt Mary always talks too much and you judge what she says as boring and try to avoid her – what could you think, feel and do instead to make the conversation with her more interesting for both of you?
- If your Cousin Bertie always gets drunk and starts singing later in the evening – how could you drop your expectation of him remaining sober this year (why should he?) and just accept him as he is?
- If your mother-in-law always criticises your food preparations – how could you change your thoughts about this so that you feel relaxed and calm whatever she says to you?
- If your little nephews often get on your nerves because they are so noisy and demanding – which activities could you consider to suggest so that you feel connected with them and have fun while playing with them?
- If you feel stressed and overwhelmed each year because of all the things you have to organise and manage – what type of support could you think of and how could you feel good about asking for help?
- If your sister expects you always to try all her deserts and praise each of them – how could you prepare yourself so that you could behave in a determined but kind way when you tell her that you no longer eat what you don’t want to eat?
Now it’s your turn!
Write down the thoughts you have about your extended family and the individual family members.
Then, as soon as you are more aware of your conscious and unconscious thoughts, start to make deliberate decisions about those that don’t serve you and your relationships with your family.
Decide to let them go and to choose thoughts that help you enjoy your relationships with your family – during the holidays and at other times of the year.
You can decide to use the holidays with family as an opportunity to grow.
The ‘How to enjoy the Holidays with Family’ Series.