The Christmas holiday is certainly known as a time of peace and fellowship. Yet family issues do arise on occasion and even simple conversations in a world that suddenly seems more conflictive can turn to anger. Here are some helpful tips to make sure your holidays remain true to their tradition.
One apparent constant in the news lately is conflict. Countless stories tell of personal and group confrontations that have arisen over the recent national elections. We have even seen information about how families have been split over their views—or how social media have driven a wedge among friends.
There is certainly nothing wrong with political or other debate and a healthy sharing of opinion keeps democracies fresh, but are there healthy ways to deal with and manage confrontation, in a variety of situations including work or family life?
I had a college professor once who said that many people deal with traumatic memories as we would a trunk full of rattlesnakes. We keep the trunk tightly locked because we believe that if we open it, danger will quickly overtake us.
I have thought about that for years, wondering if keeping those rattlesnakes in the trunk is a good—or bad—idea. Are we truly safe leaving them in there or will, eventually, we find that they have worked their way out and we have no idea where they are—or if they’re ready to strike?
Would it perhaps be better to open the trunk and deal with them when we’re better equipped and ready, especially if perhaps we’ve requested someone to help us, to not open that trunk alone?
Of course, the trunk full of rattlesnakes is an excellent metaphor for traumatic or similar experiences. Everyone deals with those experiences differently but is there a better way to face and manage difficult memories.
Brooke Brown, clinical director for Diakon Family Life Services – Capital Region, which offers services to address traumatic experiences, below shares professional thoughts on trauma and how to address it in a healthy way.
Diakon Corporate Communications
I think that historically, we (that is the general population, not us therapist-types) have not really known how to deal properly with trauma and traumatic experiences. We have thought about trauma as a physical issue, like a car accident or something requiring medical attention. Or we have convinced ourselves that not dealing with traumatic memories is best because, after all, no one can see the wounds if we don’t talk about them.
Counseling can be of assistance in a wide variety of situations. Several families, for example, mention the impact it’s had on their lives in edited excerpts below. To learn if it might benefit you, see advice below from Laurel Spencer of Diakon Family Life Services …
• “I’m a single mom and messed up royally when I was younger. My youngest child, for example, has struggled with feeling abandoned. And who could blame him? His father told him that I should have had an abortion because having him ruined his life! My son wouldn’t sleep alone for years; it was hard for me to leave him. I sought out counseling for him but then realized I also needed an outlet. I’m still struggling but my son and I went to counseling together and I learned what he needed to have from me. I also learned how to better handle the stress of raising my children alone. Counseling definitely helped us.”
• “My husband and I sought marriage counseling after becoming involved in foster care while also caring for our other children and grandchildren. There was never time for just the two of us. My husband thought counseling was a waste of time but went because he knew it was important to me. Communication was our key issue. Now, thanks to counseling, we are open to communication and pay more attention to each other. Counseling has allowed us see there needs to be “us time” and even parent/child time with each of our children. In fact, we hire a sitter once a month so that we can do something with our older kids. Before going to counseling, we had simply spread ourselves too thin.”
There’s no question about it: We live in a complex world that sometimes presents us with difficulties we’re not sure how to address.
Oh no … it’s “the Holidays” already ….
As I reflect on what the holidays mean to me, I dig deep into my heart and find peace and serenity and a sense of joy and family—and then the world and life take over.
The house to decorate, cookies to be made, presents to be bought, cards to be sent—and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. For those who are caregivers of others, the holidays can become even more of a chore, even something to dread.
In fact, during the holidays, the biggest stressors for many people are relationships, finances and physical demands. It’s therefore important to listen to your body, reflect on the true meaning of the season, and do what makes you happy to keep the holiday period a peaceful season.
At the age of 9, my daughter was beautiful and bubbly, intelligent and funny. Always tall for her age, she possessed a body built for strength and she was using that strength to become a decent swimmer.
Nine was a year of significant growth—and a year of doubt. This would be the year that she became more sensitive about how she looked and the size of her clothes. In spite of every bit of praise I could muster about who she was and the amazing things she could do because of her height and strength, she only understood that her body was different from many of the other girls’.
And like many of us, she didn’t like being different. She longed to blend in.
At 14, a boy, so distressed by incessant bullying, took his own life. He left a note for his family and friends, reminding people how important it is to reach beyond labeling and intolerance.
At 14, a girl hanged herself; she looked for all intents and purposes to be a normal teen, active, involved, successful in school, but quietly feeling alone and hopeless.
At 13, another girl attempted suicide numerous times and then grew determined and leapt to her death; although she often seemed happy, in private she fought her own demons.
These youths, whose stories have been changed to protect families, came from different regions, but in many respects they all are “our children”—and we need to learn from their acts of desperation.
I was bullied in elementary school. For some reason, in the area in which I grew up, political parties were a “big deal,” and my parents were members of the “wrong” party. I can recall to this day being made fun of on the playground because of that fact. It hurt. In fact, I also remember a day—I believe there was a presidential election underway at the time—on which the elementary-school band director asked everyone in the assembled band to raise their hands as to which political party they belonged to—this was in fourth or fifth grade! What he meant was: to which party do your parents belong? I was the only one, out of probably 50 or so children, who raised my hand for the one party. I remember that scene even today, some 50 years later. Think bullying doesn’t have an effect? —A Diakon staff member
Does bullying concern you? Is your child being bullied? Is your child perhaps bullying others?
A blog represents a compilation of various views on various subjects.
Sometimes, blog posts are educational, sometimes inspirational. At times, they’re focused on broad subjects with multiple opinions; at other times, they’re very personal, reflecting a particular view at a pivotal moment in life … as is the following post, written by Melissa Kindall of the Diakon Corporate Communications staff (and her daughter continues to do well).
The call that no parent ever wants to hear came Wednesday morning two weeks ago.
My 15-year-old daughter had gotten a ride home from field hockey practice with a friend. Her friend’s brother was driving when their car was T-boned by a truck.
Alzheimer’s disease is a brain disorder that progressively harms and ultimately destroys brain cells, leading to memory loss and changes in thinking and other brain functions.
People are at the greatest risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease if they are more than 85 years of age; they may have a reduced risk of developing memory loss-related diseases if they maintain a healthy lifestyle throughout their lives, according to the National Alzheimer’s Association.
Because people experience Alzheimer’s disease differently with varying symptoms, it is important that a doctor provide the diagnosis. Symptoms generally include the loss of problem-solving ability, impaired judgment, and loss of short-term memory.
Alzheimer’s disease occurs gradually. In fact, after a diagnosis is made, family members often say they believe they should have “seen it coming.”
As families learn to deal with a loved one’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis, they must become aware of the reality they face—the disease gets progressively worse and families should make plans to handle that decline.
By the age of 6, girls start to express concerns about their weight or shape, according to the National Eating Disorders Association. Approximately half of elementary school girls (ages 6 through 12) are concerned about their weight or about becoming too fat.
The statistics on individuals struggling with eating disorders are startling. In the United States alone, 20 million woman and 10 million men struggle or have struggled with an eating disorder.
What is an eating disorder? I can tell you what it isn’t—a trend, a lifestyle or just a phase someone is going through. It is a serious problem that more often than not requires professional intervention. And the sooner the intervention takes place, the better the treatment outcome tends to be.