Today is the first day of fall and already I am planning for the holidays. I’m not one of those people who starts watching Christmas movies in July or has all their gifts wrapped by Labor Day. I am thinking ahead and planning early because our Christmas will look different this year because of the coronavirus.
For many families the holidays will look different because of the pandemic. The pandemic will multiply the difficult decisions of how to do the holidays and do them safely. Also adding to the mix the holidays is the ongoing division in our country over a number of issues. As parents, adult kids, grandparents, really anyone, we want to do our best to create an atmosphere where our families can celebrate and be together and where everyone can feel as comfortable as possible. We also want to consider how we will do the holidays in a way where we are putting relationships before any of the issues that divide our country currently.
Now is the time to decide how we will do the holidays and do them well so our families feel loved and our relationships are nurtured. Our relationships are more important than any of topics that are not only dividing our country. Without relationships we have nothing.
So how can you build a bridge to family members?
- Start by showing love and kindness.
- Make your family time a safe place for everyone. What topics need to be off limits? Can we graciously set these boundaries now? In our family we know the areas where we disagree, so we do our best to avoid going there. We know how the other person feels so there is no need to continually bring up those topics for discussion. Instead we focus on our common ground and that starts with our love and respect for each other.
- Start with an apology. Maybe now is the time for a phone call to the family members you want to see at the holidays, but you know there may be a break in relationship. Start by first offering any apologies that you need to. Parents, I have not met any perfect parents. We all owe apologies to our kids for something. I have found that most kids respond well to a sincere apology. Something like, “I am sorry for ______ or when I ___________. I will do better by _____________. Would you please forgive me in your time?” What kid doesn’t want to hear a heartfelt apology from their parents regarding whatever issue has been between them? I know this is not always well received but you have nothing to lose (except your pride) by trying.
- Now your family member is ready to talk about getting together. Maybe say something like, “Hey, we would love to get together at the holidays. I want you to know we will not bring up the topics of _____________. We will talk about other things.”
- By setting aside your views and opinions, you can reach out in love. Love your kids and other family members right where they are—without trying to change them or convince them of your point of view. Lay aside the issues that separate you and focus on the person—your child, grandchild, parent, sister, brother, whomever.
- Address safety issues. If the coronavirus is the issue dividing the family, what can you do to make sure each family member’s concerns about safety during the pandemic are addressed so they feel safe getting together?
Our family’s Christmas will look different this year. But the most important thing is not that we do things the way we always have, but that we are together. This year is not going to be like it always has been for many of you as well. But think about what matters most. Is it being “right” and having things your way? Or is it more important to have everyone together and make the changes for that to happen.
I am preaching to myself today. This year has been one of lots of me laying down my way, seeing things from someone else’s viewpoint, and doing what I need to do to nurture relationship. I have failed and apologized many times. But what matters most to me is not that we always agree on everything or that the holidays look the same (easy to say in September), but what matters most to me is that we remain a loving family even in the crazy year of 2020.
Also know that you’re not going to make everyone happy. That is not your goal. Your goal is to make a space for relationships to grow given the current state of affairs. No one will have everything her way. I love Romans 12:18 for these types of situations, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all people.” This doesn’t mean that we become people pleasers or try to keep everyone happy at all times and all costs. We can only do what we can do. We do our best to apologize, create a safe place, and make people feel loved. Each person is responsible for how they choose to respond.
I wish and pray for you a holiday season where you are a blessing, you are blessed, and most importantly where we are thankful to God and honor the gift of His Son by living like He would in our situation.
*For more ideas on building relationships with your kids when you don’t see eye to eye check out my book Love No Matter What: When Your Kids Make Decisions You Don’t Agree With.
Brenda Garrison is an author and speaker who empowers women with the confidence to live their calling. Brenda is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science Degree in Ministry Leadership with a Concentration in Women’s Ministry at Moody Bible Institute. She and her husband, Gene, are the parents of three young adult daughters and live near Metamora, IL.