The holidays are a hard time for those who struggle with family. It’s a time where the pressure to enjoy yourself becomes greater, and those Hallmark movies with the happy family ending do not help in the slightest.
It all ends with everyone giving each other a big hug, apologies, people forgiving one another, and maybe a bit of singing by the piano. Because apparently everyone can sing in these movies.
That’s the bad thing about movies. The unrealistic expectations. Because not everyone is lucky enough to have a supportive family that they deserve.
Fair warning: this is a personal post. Reworked to remind everyone reading it, that there are many of us that have struggled to fit in with our families during the holidays, and throughout our lives.
I struggled a lot with anxiety settling into a new country at 10 years old. I had never lived with this side of my family before. The anxiety ruined all my family occasions including some of my favourite holidays. I have no happy memories of any of my birthdays, Halloweens, Christmases, from the ages of 10-19.
At 19 I finally pushed myself to speak to my family in English. I pushed the words out despite the physical and mental pain it brought me. I struggle a little less now, and here is how I managed to make the holidays a little bit easier.
This is from personal experience only. If you are seriously struggling, please consider speaking to someone about it. You can always message me.
What I found to help me…
- Understanding that each of your family members has their own struggles. The actions of others may reflect what’s going on in their own lives. I
- Everyone has their own ways of being – which means not everyone may show affection, love, compassion, the same way that you do. This doesn’t mean that your family don’t care for you.
- People are allowed to make mistakes and they’re allowed to be themselves. Understanding people’s mistakes means understanding them, and that may just bring you to feel closer to them.
- People are allowed to have their own comfort zones. Similarly to everyone having their own way of being, someone may not be comfortable with showing too much affection. And accepting their boundaries will mean accepting and understanding their behaviour towards you.
Here is where you can stop reading unless you really care about how this anxiety-ridden little 10-year old made 9 whole years without having a relationship with her family…
As mentioned before, I moved countries when I was 10 years old. All the way from sunny Colombia, where I had my amazing family, cousins, a loving grandma, and oh so many friends. I came to England with my parents, to live with my other grandma, aunties, and my cousin. I had met them before, maybe when I was a baby. But they were strangers to me.
From 10-13 years old:
In the first years, I became close to both of my cousins, one was a year younger than me and one was five years older. For some reason, my grandma treated them a lot more different than she treated me. She played with them, bought them presents, talked to them, got to know them, all that loving grandma stuff! My grandma tried some of those things with me, but I could tell it was a chore.
From 13-17 years old:
In the middle years, I became quieter, I didn’t speak to even my cousins. Our friendship had faded because that’s when I started to develop “the anxiety” which, in all honesty, had been there since the start. I physically couldn’t bring my words out, and especially not in my new language, I was very self-conscious of them criticising my English. So I stayed quiet.
From 17-20 years old:
Fast forward a few years: I am now in my late teens. The dreaded late teens where you don’t feel like a part of anything. Not feeling like a part of your family is one of the worst feelings you could have on top of that. I was completely alone. My parents were out working so I barely saw them, I still couldn’t speak English to my cousins, and the rest of them were still strangers who I barely knew, and who barely knew me.
When I turned 17 I finally found a friend. A best friend who was also my boyfriend. I was so excited to meet his family and finally feel like a part of a family. That didn’t happen. But it’s not something that I was too upset over. This was the moment that I turned my thinking around and I decided to stop thinking about the terrible relationship I had with every single member of my family. Instead, I looked at what I could do better.
- About 2 weeks ago I sat down with my cousins and just talked about our day. (in English) We laughed and shared everyday things. Like a “normal” family.
- About 1 week ago I went shopping with my grandma for some shoes she wanted to send to someone in Colombia. We went to sit down in Nandos and ate together, just the two of us. She then bought me some socks from Primark. It was scary to me, but she asked me about my life, and she is now the only family member to know anything about me running a blog. She also hugged me and called me “mija”.
- I see my parents more or less every day now, I feel less alone, and they have finally found stability.
- I now realise that my grandma is naturally not a very affectionate woman, and she simply probably needed more time. My cousins are naturally very critical, but they are also very accepting and caring. I only learned this when I decided to open myself up more.