Thursday, December 3, 2009

Christmas Crunch: Avoiding Family Tension During the Holiday

Family conflict during the Holidays. Ugh. It happens often and for some families, is inevitable.

The Season is upon us, so to safeguard the harmony of your family Christmas, I have developed 5 Guidelines for Building Better Relationships.

My guidelines use yoga philosophy combined with my clinical experience in western medicine. No matter what your belief system, you can learn about yoga philosophy without betraying your belief system. In fact, you may find that yoga helps you deepen your own spiritual roots. as it does for me.

In times of need, you can be a Mercy Ship. A Mercy Ship saves others - you can be that proverbial ship that brings Peace and Harmony to your family's Holiday.

Being A Mercy Ship in time of need:

  1. Respond rather than react. Conflict will always rear its ugly head. Our goal in life is not to be conflict free, but rather deal gracefully with it when it arises. It is not the conflict that is important, it is how you react to it. So when your cousin brings their dog to your mother's "hypoallergenic" home or your great aunt insists on giving gifts when you've emphatically stated no gifts - don't panic. Breathe. Think. Choose your words carefully. And speak with kindness and compassion.
  2. Voice your expectations. Nothing ruins a Holiday quicker than having one (or multiple) unmet expectations. You thought you were spending Christmas with your extended family, but he thought you were staying home this year. Hello? An explosion like a toddler temper tantrum is in the making. Make sure you get your expectations on the table. All of them. If you want to get to the community potluck Christmas fair by 6 pm, say so. If he wants to stay home for Christmas, consider a compromise. But above all, make sure your family knows your expectations and intentions.
  3. Sow seeds so that you may reap a harvest. Many religions share this proverb. This Christmas, be the friend you want to have - to your family and your friends. In yoga, this is karma. In life, it is the "Golden Rule." Put out the energy that you want to take in - without expecting anything in return.
  4. In order to transform, you must know what you believe. The great religions & philosohies of the world agree with the proverb: do not be like the chaff of the wheat, which is easily blown by the wind. What it implies is those who are easily blown by the wind are immature fence riders. In order to effect change, we must solidly know what we believe. In practical terms, if we want a family member to change their damaging or divisive behavior, then we must change our own damaging behavior. In fact, it may not be the family member's behavior that needs changing - it might just be you that needs to change. Or as Ghandi said, "be the change you want to see in the world." Analyze what fuels your own behavior - pride? self-preservation? generosity? sacrifice? Figure out what you may need to change - your behavior may be the what someone needs to change (or save!) their life or your family unity.
  5. "How Fragile We Are. How Fragile We Are." In the lyrics of songwriter Sting, we must remember that we are all very delicate creatures. "We", as U2's Bono writes, might not be broken but we can see the cracks." We are all on the edge of breaking at any moment. So this Season, be careful with one another.
Coming Next in Breathing In This Life: Learning Your Family's Love Languages. Based on the bestselling book, learn how you can improve relationships with those you love by speaking their language, in 5 easy steps.

*photo of my youngest(15 months), Christmas 2008

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