- The holidays can be a challenging time for alternative families to navigate. Between family dynamics, gifting, and finances, there are many potential triggers for strong feelings.
- Below are some questions to ask yourself as you go into the holiday season to identify where you might have vulnerable moments.
- This time of year is ultimately about love and gratitude. Work to acknowledge potential challenges without letting them become the foundation of the holiday season. Still make time to celebrate yourself and your life.
Let’s begin with a shared definition of “alternative family.” While the word “alternative” has taken on a whole host of meanings through different decades, trends, and political eras, in this blog post it is an umbrella term for anyone or any family that feels that they do not fit within normative understandings of how families look. Some examples might be: families who live with multiple generations, – a norm in other cultures, but less so in America – chosen families, families with parents who are divorced but still live together, surrogate families.
Whatever your family looks like, the holidays can be a challenging time. However, when you are working against socially acceptable ideals of family, these challenges can feel, and are, very different.
Below are some questions and opportunities for reflection to guide you and your family through the season:
- Reflect on what the holiday season means to all members of the family. It is possible that there are different traditions, expectations, or hopes that each member brings with them into the holiday season. How can you honor and/or help them honor those this season?
- Identify opportunities to spend time together, and acknowledge that it is possible that individuals may want to spend some part of the holidays on their own or with people that do not live in the house/are considered part of the family. Check in with yourself and communicate with others when you hope to be with your family and when you plan to spend time alone or with others.
- Lean into your alternative truths. Don’t be afraid to interrogate why holidays are celebrated in certain ways. Consider which socially normative holiday traditions have meaning for you, and identify which ones you are interested in doing away with or want to replace with your own innovation.
- Who is supporting you this holiday season outside of your family and how are they supporting you? Consider friendships, colleagues, pets, family members. Acknowledge your circle of support. Don’t forget to acknowledge all that you do for yourself to support yourself too.
- Ask yourself and others what does family mean to me? How is your concept and understanding of family powerful and unique? How do you find security and peace in your family? How do you hope for your family to grow and transform in the upcoming year? How does your family celebrate you and how do you celebrate your family?
Let these questions be a place to start rather than a step-by-step guide to navigating the holidays. Trust yourself and the knowledge that you have about your relationship and partner(s) and let that steer these reflections and conversations.
Author: Rachel Levy, LLMSW
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*This blog was created with the help of Anton Babushkin
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