Christmas is a time when you have the opportunity to be in touch with your family. Connecting with family is an opportunity for growth, if you choose to take it that way. If you can manage that family Christmas dinner, it will be a lot easier to handle the church board meeting. Leaders who are able to calmly stay in touch over the years with family are more likely to have calm, effective relationships at church, too.
Christmas is not always conducive to calm connection. Church leaders are exhausted by the time Christmas Day arrives. It’s easy to fall into old patterns. Children are overly excited. Financial stress about holiday spending can increase anxiety.
Here are three suggestions for relating to your family this Christmas:
1. Set some goals for yourself for your time with your family, whether you go to them, they come to you, or they live next door. You might decide to ask your father questions rather than argue with him. Or to talk to Uncle Charlie for at least five minutes. Or make sure to take a break at some time during the visit so you can stay grounded.
If you will only connect by phone this year, set a goal for your call. In some families, making the call is a good goal. Or you might want to stay on the phone longer, or set a time limit for yourself if you (or your mother) tend to go on and on.
If you set specific goals, you’ll be less likely to react automatically. You’ll have more choices as you relate to your family, this Christmas and in the future.
2. Think about what you want from the celebration. Especially if you tend to go along with everyone, think through what you want, and see if you can make some choices to get more of what you want. If you work hard to orchestrate the family gathering, don’t assume that everyone has to do everything together.
3. Stay curious about your family. Rather than rolling your eyes (even internally), see if you can view them like someone else’s family, at least for part of the time. Think of this time as a family research project. Listen to the stories with new ears, even if you’ve heard them a hundred times. What do they tell you, if anything, about that individual’s life hopes and dreams?
This connecting time is not about being a “good daughter” or “dutiful” son/brother/sister. We all learn how to relate to others in the families we grow up in. When you learn more about your family and aren’t as caught up in the family script, you’ll have more options at church. And that will be good news for the New Year.