Holiday Talks

Coral Gables Counseling Center - Thursday, December 21, 2017
By Veronica Lucía Sánchez, LCSW

Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Constant open communication with your children/adolescents is important throughout the year. However, sometimes with so many family activities during the Holiday Season communication can get lost in the shuffle. It is easy to get caught up with your shopping lists and party planning, yet this is a good time to do a “feelings checkpoint” with your kids to make sure you know how they are doing throughout this joyful but also stressful time of the year.

During my adolescent years, the Holidays turned out to be more of a stressful time than a joyful time because all that was on my mind was how I could be with both of my families (Mom’s and Dad’s). My parents got divorced when I was 6 years old. Both families celebrated Noche Buena on the 24thof December and at the same time. Before I turned 16 years old I had to depend on others for transportation so I was off the hook! I went where they took me. But once I had a car, it was all on me to not leave too early from one family’s gathering and not get there too late to the other family’s dinner. This worry of not being with my Mom or Dad at the times they wanted me to be with them was very stressful. In addition, this was one of the few times during the year that I saw my cousins, and I really wanted to continue catching up with them. This split celebration did not leave enough time to enjoy being with people I loved on both sides.

As a young adult I voiced my Holiday frustrations, but my hope is that children and adolescents don’t have to wait till then.  This matter can be difficult to approach because no one wants to get their feelings hurt, but if a parent initiates the conversation then the child may feel more open to sharing what is worrying him/her and what he/she wants.

Regardless of your family’s situation or composition, I urge you to try and reach out to the kids involved and simply ask them if what you plan to do works for them. This year it may be too close to the Holidays by now, but around the middle of the year, it would be a good time to bring the matter up, and make plans together.

By starting a conversation with your kids about how are they feeling about their family’s Holiday plan it will open the opportunity for them to express themselves and hopefully, together, come up with a better plan. For example, now my father’s side celebrates Noche Buena on the 23rd of December. Although it was weird getting used to that change of date, it made sense to me. It also works for my married family members that need to go to their spouse’s festivities as well without having to rush from one place to the next. Some other solutions we tried included having one side of the family celebrate at lunch and another at dinner. The idea was to make sure the family members could celebrate and spend uninterrupted time together. You may consider something similar, or maybe no changes need to be made, but at least you can learn and acknowledge how your child is feeling.

After all, the important part of the Holiday season is for families to get together, share good times and make memories – no matter how it’s done.

Happy Holidays!