Changing a family Christmas tradition can be hard

We have always had our whole family here for Christmas. That IS the tradition. I'm in shock that they would even consider this...

Christmas is coming and I’ve just gotten an awful blow from my son. He and his wife live up north on the mainland. They are looking to start a family, and turns out that after they have a baby, they won’t be coming home for Christmas any more. He talked about the complication of travelling with a baby, the expense, the setting up of their own traditions.

We have always had our whole family here for Christmas. That IS the tradition. I’m in shock that they would even consider this. This has just taken all of the joy out of Christmas for me. How do I get them to change their mind?

Sounds like you really value everyone to your home for Christmas.

It’s pretty distressing to you that your son and his wife are looking to change things after they have a baby. At the best of times change is hard. When it involves tradition and Christmas, it can get really intense.

Before we get to your son, though, what I’m hearing is that even thinking about this problem is robbing you of the joy of this Christmas.

To prevent that from happening, it might be interesting to ask yourself these questions:

“If this was truly the last Christmas that we all spend together, how to I want it to go?

“In five year’s time if I look back on this Christmas do I want to remember that I spent my time upset that my son might not be home next Christmas, or that I really enjoyed that he was here this one?”

Hopefully those questions will help to ensure that future possibilities don’t rob you of the joy of this year’s Christmas — when things are as they usually are.

To enjoy this Christmas, stay focused on it. Soak up every bit of pleasure out of it that you can.

Christmas can be pretty hectic, so maybe think of some ways that you can cue yourself to stop and take it in: to Notice what is happening and enjoy it with every fibre of your being.

Maybe every time you hear your favourite Christmas song, you stop and enjoy what is happening at that moment — what you can see, the sound of the music, how it makes you feel, any smells or flavour in the air.

At this moment, your son and his wife, and other children are coming for Christmas. Focus on that as much as is possible, reminding yourself of that whenever other distressing thoughts come up about the future … as they will, from time to time.

And when they do, one of the best ways to help deal with them is to make a plan. Rather than avoiding it, go down the worst-case scenario in your mind.

What would you do if they did not come to your home for Christmas? Get very practical in your mind: How would you set the table, would any foods change, what would be the sleeping arrangements for those that are at your home be, etc.

Focusing on something practical will help to avoid getting swept into the emotion of a possibility that is, at the least, a year away. Emotions that would seek to rob you of this Christmas.

There are times to really pay attention to feelings, and there are times to put them on the back burner. This is one of those times. There will be lots of time to pay attention to feelings if possibility turns into fact.

Sounds like your son and his wife are looking to the future and how they see their own traditions developing in the future. And they see doing things differently.

When they do actually start a family, it may be a good time to talk  further with them about this. If they are looking to do things differently because of the expense of coming at Christmas, perhaps there are ways to help out.

Do they need assistance, the idea of travelling with children seem overwhelming? How could that be managed?

If their desire is to begin traditions that fit them as a couple and new family, in their own way, being gracious in your understanding may help you to maintain a positive relationship with them.

Traditions are bittersweet when they are in transition. The change can feel really sad for those who have held and enjoyed them, and at the same time, they are full of promise for the future for those who develop them in their own way.

If you wish to ask a question of the counsellors, for a response in future columns, e-mail them at info@pacifictherapy.ca. Consult a Counsellor is provided by registered clinical counsellors Nancy Bock, Diane Davies Leslie Wells, Andrew Lochhead and Sara Lynn Kang at pacific therapy & consulting inc. It appears every second Friday in the Record.

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