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Compromises Help Divide Family Time
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Managing the holiday tug of war between family homes can add enormous stress to a season intended to provide pleasant memories for years to come.
"Deciding where to spend Thanksgiving and Christmas is one of the toughest choices many families face during the holiday season," said Dr. Louise Davis, child and family development specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service. "Healthy compromises require honest and considerate communication."
Davis said planning ahead is the key to smoother holidays. Consider factors such as distance, economic ability, health, priorities and past choices well in advance of the holidays.
"Alternating between families may be a solution some years, but that can be hard to follow indefinitely," Davis said. "There aren't many families that can observe consistent traditions year after year the way the previous generations enjoyed them. We're just too mobile and face too many external demands."
As children are added to families and health becomes a factor, compromises become even more important.
"Everyone needs to be willing to sacrifice their ideal holiday family gathering. Be open to continuing traditions in different homes," Davis said. "Don't let a sour attitude spoil everyone's holiday season."
One potential pitfall of compromises occurs when the same person or family compromises every year. Some people are more giving and willing to compromise, but that doesn't mean they are the only ones who should make concessions. Stubborn people should not always have their choices.
"Silent sufferers still suffer. Eventually, resentment can build to unbearable levels," Davis said. "Don't assume everyone is happy. Discuss decisions thoroughly to make sure everyone has been reasonably satisfied."
Effective communication means taking time to listen, restating the problems, recognizing the boundaries, showing compassion and being honest without being hurtful.
"Keep expectations for the holiday season manageable. Don't be afraid to try something new, and don't be disappointed if the holidays aren't what they used to be," Davis said. "Life brings changes. Each holiday season is different and can be enjoyed in its own way."