The holidays are a great time to enjoy family and friends and appreciate all that life has to offer. But they can also be a trying time, filled with stress, anxiety, unexpected temptations and a pace that can make your head spin. Along with all of the wonder and delight, it’s important to remember that the holidays can be even more challenging for someone who is currently in treatment and experiencing their first home visit, or transitioning home from residential treatment.
Tensions often run high at this time of year and as a member of the family works to assimilate back into the fold, it’s important to not get hung up on the issues or problems that took them out of the home in the first place. Families may find themselves reverting back to past behaviors as they interact and encounter some of the same problems. Rather than letting the past ruin this holiday season, take a look at five things to try to help prevent escalation at home.
5 Holiday Tips to try at home
1) Keep your sights set on the other person’s emotions and deal with emotions before anything else! The vast majority of our altercations happen when we are focused on behavior and words, rather than the emotions that drive them. We have to be less emotionally reactive as parents.
2) Avoid misappropriating responsibility. Let go of what you can’t control! Focus on what you can control. Remember, your daughter’s/son’s emotions, physiology, feelings, and thoughts are NOT within your control.
3) Try using “responsible language”. Speak in terms of what you are responsible for (your actions, your thoughts, sometimes your feelings), and what others are responsible for (their actions, their thoughts, sometimes their feelings).
● If you are struggling with perceiving who is responsible for what, try finishing each blaming statement you make with the phrase, “ . . . and I take responsibility for it!” until you get the point. It’s a little corny, but it’s fun and it works.
● Use the words “choice”, “choose”, and “choosing”, often.
● Instead of using the phrase, “I am angry,” use this new phrase, “I am choosing to anger myself,” OR, “I am choosing to be angry.”
● When your daughter/son hurts you, say things in this way: “Because you are choosing to do such-and-such, I am choosing to feel and do such-and-such.” (Be careful to be gentle when using this technique. It’s easy to use as a weapon.)
4) Negotiate rather than coerce:
● Identify and describe the problem so that you and your daughter/son agree on the description of the problem.
● Make an offer: “This is what I can bring to the table.”
● Allow your daughter/son to make an offer. Do not make offers for her/him.
● Working only with what is currently “on the table”, work to compromise.
● No one leaves until a compromise is reached. This could take a while!
5) Get creative! Stop doing the same thing. Try new approaches to old problems. HOW you influence is what’s most important.
Let us hear from you! Have you tried any of these tips?
-by Matt Bartlett, LMFT