With the Holiday gatherings right around the corner, some people are packing their belongings and booking plane tickets to spend the holidays with family or friends, while others are winding up their engagements so they can host this year. Still, some, like those reading this article right now are biting their nails, stomach-churning, feeling nauseous wondering how to break the news to everyone expecting them, that they are going to be breaking holiday traditions and spending holidays without them.
The anxiety and stress of confronting your parents and loved ones is understandable. Facing them is the most challenging thing you might have to do. Breaking their hearts by telling them you won’t be joining them this holiday season can cause a lot of disappointment, not to mention the guilt of breaking the news to them. But sometimes, for the sake of your mental peace, it’s necessary to allow yourself to make decisions for yourself; decisions that cater to your personal wishes and desires, not others — whether family, friends, or acquaintances.
Of course, we know it’s not as easy as just picking up the phone and telling them straight away about your plans. So we have gathered some tips for you in case you need some moral support. Read on below!
Fully Understand and Be Confident About Your Decision
Deciding to spend the holidays away from people you love can be a huge change, especially if you have been spending each year surrounded by them. Even when it is your decision to do so, it can be tough to come to terms with. It can leave you confused about your emotions and have you second-guessing them. You may even find yourself feeling guilty about disappointing your loved ones or wanting to spend the holidays apart from them.
It is necessary, thus, to first fully comprehend and come to terms with your own emotions and ensure that this is really what you want. Confidence and self-esteem influence not only mental health but also relationships and goals and aspirations. Once you’re confident in your decision, you are ready to take the next step of confronting your family. Being confident in your decision is an important step because if you waver in your decision, you are more likely to make mistakes while communicating your plans to your family and will end up feeling extremely guilty and may even end up changing your decision with enough coercing.
On the other hand, you are more likely to hold your ground if you’re resolute in your decision. So, how do you do that? There are a few things you can do. The easiest way is to make a list of reasons or motivating factors behind your decision. Anything that jeopardizes your physical health, mental health, or emotional well-being is a good enough reason to make that call to your family. The ‘listing technique’ can also help you see if you’re being unreasonable in your decision of breaking family holiday traditions.
Do Not Delay the Conversation
It is basic etiquette to inform the hosts whether or not you plan on attending a party or gathering; the sooner the better. So naturally, the right thing to do once you’re confident in your decision is to make that dreaded call as soon as possible. Sure, it’ll be scary and nerve-wracking but it is also necessary to establish boundaries.
Informing your family about your plans of spending the holidays apart from them early on can not only save you a lot of instances of lying while you try to find the correct moment to break the news, but it can also allow your family to process their emotions and accept your decision sooner. Having the conversation as soon as you’ve made your decision is also a sign of respect for the other person which will likely increase the possibility of them being understanding.
It is also recommended not to delay the conversation in order to save your family the hassle of arranging and planning everything only for them to find out last moment that you won’t be present on holidays. It will also save you the guilt of finding out your family arranged things specifically for you only for you to cancel last minute. Informing them earlier will allow them to change plans — perhaps invite other guests; friends, neighbors, etc. — in time and you won’t feel bad about it either.
Be Kind and Choose the Right Words
By beating around the bush and making yourself appear uncertain about your decision, you’re only inviting others to find unwanted solutions for you. Instead, a better way to communicate would be to be firm and confident while informing your family about your plans of celebrating the holidays apart from them. This will make you sound unwavering and leave no room for unsolicited convincing and questions.
However, while speaking to family, it is important, along with being firm, that you use a tone that is kind and polite. You cannot be rude to them for wanting to spend the holidays with you. Although it may be frustrating, using a soft tone is more likely to get you what you want. You can do so with a simple, straightforward text that goes something like ‘Hey, I want to talk to you about something regarding the holidays this year. Let me know when you’re free.’
From there you can either send a polite private text to whoever is concerned with the hosting of holiday gatherings or, if you think you can communicate better on a phone call, ring them to let them know that you plan on celebrating the holidays a little differently this year. Don’t be vague, rather, provide valid reasons in order to save them the anxiety of assuming they’ve done something wrong.
Be Kind, Understanding and Allow Them to Process Their Emotions
Just like you’re feeling nervous and jittery about confronting your family with your decision, some emotions should be expected from them as well upon being informed of your plans. At this point, it is absolutely necessary that you remain calm, understanding, and kind. It is normal for your family to be emotional upon learning about your decision since family traditions mean a lot more to some people than others but it’s nothing you can’t deal with by offering some kind words and giving them the time they need to process their feelings instead of making them feel bad for being emotional.
Instead of getting defensive and — as tempting as it may sound at the moment — talking them out of feeling disappointed, you should be empathetic and considerate with your responses. If they say your decision has hurt them, say something like ‘Yes, I understand that this isn’t how you envisioned your holidays would be like but I’ve made my decision and it’d be great if you could accept it so we could both enjoy the holidays in our own way instead of feeling sad and angry.’
While you should definitely be kind and considerate, it is not your responsibility to make them feel better or provide elaborate apologies.
Try to compromise and offer alternatives for missing out on an important family holiday to neutralize the effect of your absence. Once they have come to terms with your decision and processed their feelings, you can try and be generous in the days following the holidays. Try to include them in your plans and show them your excitement and happiness. A short facetime call, pictures of you and whatever you’re doing can make them feel included. Asking them to show you how they’re spending the holidays will make them feel cared for.
You can even send presents or letters to them. Just because you’re not physically present doesn’t mean you can’t be present in other ways. Plus, once the holidays are over and you’re back into a normal routine, you can plan a short trip to see your parents if it is convenient or let them know that you plan on making it up to them for the lost time together. You can even invite them over if flying over to see them doesn’t work for you.
All in all, while it may seem very daunting and challenging to confront your parents about something like breaking family traditions, it is sometimes necessary. At the same time, it may be upsetting for your family to hear you’re not coming home for the holidays but they’ll come around eventually when you know how to go about the whole confrontation process balancing firmness, kindness, and understanding.