We all know the holidays are typically the ultimate season for family time. It’s normally the time each year when loved ones, near and far, join together in celebration of togetherness. However, sometimes it doesn’t always work out that way, and we’re left feeling disappointed by another’s absence, or like we’re the ones disappointing others because we couldn’t make it work this year. Whatever side of the boat you may be on, it can be challenging to navigate the holidays dealing with the guilt or maybe even the hurt that can come with these family-time decisions.

Firstly, I think it’s important to acknowledge that at some point, there will have to be a change in the norm of the family holiday celebration. People get married, they move, they may divorce…life changes! As hard as it may be to accept when the norm gets ruffled, it’s bound to happen and the best thing we can do is to communicate with one another. Open dialogue about how things are going to look a little different can help to lessen the impact of the change when it comes.

For example, let’s say you’re newly married and have found yourself with your own immediate family to create a new holiday tradition with, whereas in year’s past you’ve always spent Christmas with your parents and siblings. Is it okay to have a conversation with your parents that the typical day and time of your traditional family celebration may need to move to a different day or time to allow you and your new spouse to start your own traditions for your family? Absolutely, and you shouldn’t feel guilty for doing so! Your parents had to go through that transition with THEIR parents at one time and should be able to understand your new situation.

What if you’re normally the host, and one of your adult children recently moved across the country for a great career opportunity? She calls to tell you she isn’t going to make it back home because she can’t take the time away from work or her finances won’t allow for a plane ticket right now. Suddenly you’re overcome with this incredible sense of disappointment that not only this year’s but future year’s traditions are in jeopardy of being a thing of the past. The holidays as you knew them (and worked so hard to create for so many years) now look completely different. I get it, and you are allowed to feel disappointed and saddened by that. Then, after you’ve worked through those emotions, start to think about how you can start to create a new chapter in the holiday traditions and incorporate something fun and different to ADD TO the holiday instead of feeling that everything is subtracting from it. Those changes of loved ones not being able to join for the special family time anymore is not personal, but rather situational. Take it in stride and use it to refuel an excitement for something new to look forward to, like a Christmas FaceTime date with those who couldn’t be there in person or maybe leaving the house to go tour a trail of holiday lights somewhere.

When it comes down to it, the holidays are destined to evolve over the years in the way they look with the faces around the table. There will be additions, there will be faces that you miss, but the important thing is to roll with the changes, offer grace to those who aren’t able to take part for whatever reason, and offer yourself grace if you need to be the one to initiate the change. With honest communication, more often than not, your family will understand and will get used to a new tradition in time.  

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