Got One of ‘Those’ Relatives? How to navigate family

pexels-photo-868330For some, family gatherings are nostalgic affairs. For others, they stir up feelings of dread. Family is messy, complicated, and tricky. And holidays are often lessons in patience when THAT relative starts going on and on about their conspiracy theories, political views, or theology you find suspect.

Your twenties are a time in which you begin to realize the ways in which family has shaped you: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Family gatherings at the holidays press this realization right in front of our faces. Depending on your family, a Thanksgiving meal can be marked by laughter…raised voices…or tears…or passive aggression…or silent resentment (or all of the above). Some of the best family work you can do is to spend some time deeply exploring two things:

  • If I’m honest, what are my expectations of my family?
  • If I’m honest, what are my family’s expectations of me?

The roots of family disfunction often start here. What complicates this is the in-betweenness that often marks our twenties in our own family. It’s a decade of transitioning from receiving from to investing in.

Truth be told, healthy family should have healthy, reciprocating rhythms of both giving and receiving. These rhythms in our twenties can feel confusing. There’s no simple formula for this that applies to all twentysomethings. However, it’s often an excellent idea for you to consider:

  • How can I contribute to my family in healthy and meaningful ways?

Bonus: If you’re in a particularly trying family environment, I strongly suggest you try the spiritual practice of Welcoming Prayer. It’s a way of processing through conflicting or frustrating moments in real time. Welcoming Prayer involves 3 steps:

  1. Focus and sync in: Allow yourself to feel the tension or frustration. Acknowledge it.
  2. Welcome it: Acknowledge the frustration by naming it and literally saying to yourself, “I welcome you (anger)…” NOTE: This doesn’t mean you condone hurtful or abusive behavior. Rather, you are acknowledging the feelings you have.
  3. Let it go: Simply, let it go. Not too quickly…but don’t let it linger. Tell yourself. “I let go of (anger)”

Welcoming prayer disarms the power of offenses…and provides you with a means of proactively dealing with it (as opposed to simply reacting).

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