It is Easter morning – a day Christians observe Christ’s resurrection. Many families around the world will be together. Some people are eager and willing while others join their family of origin with tense trepidation. If you experience increasing anxiety over family get-togethers, you are normal.
Most families have some level of dysfunctional behaviors and long standing patterns which nobody challenges. As adult children returning to the nest, we often revert back to being the child and engaging in the same neurotic behaviors and feeling like we are adolescents – or younger. How do you cope with a forced family function? Have a game plan before you go.
Explore what your trigger points have historically been and what you imagine they will be today. Then, strategize on how you will respond in an emotionally mature and healthy manner. It’s so easy to get sucked right back into the same mud-slinging dialogue. This time can be different.
For example, I have a client who’s mother frequently assesses her appearance in front of others. It may be comments on her weight, or clothing, all seemingly innocent statements such as: “Oh, it looks like you’ve lost a few pounds dear, your hips are smaller. Aren’t you going to eat some cake?” Or, “That dress is a lovely color, but the fit isn’t quite right for you…” This client and I explored different responses she could state to help her feel empowered and not revert back to the wounded child.
The client decided if her mother engaged in this predictable pattern, she would not become defensive and emotional. Instead, she could simply respond with something like, “Mom, I hope you can just share your positive comments about me.” Or, “Gosh mom, remember that I asked you to please refrain from any comments about my weight or wardrobe? I appreciate you honoring that…” Or, if a verbal response isn’t your gig, a knowing smile is sometimes the best response of all… The key is to have a game plan prior to entering the danger zone and then stick to it. You will feel like the adult you’ve become instead of the child you were.