These past couple of years we had another long weekend added. It was placed between January and spring break, which many agree is a great time to take a break. Other provinces also celebrate in different ways. For example Manitoba calls there’s Louis Riel Day. Long weekends are often celebrated around families and friends. For example our Easter Weekend (aside from religious significance) is around getting the kids out for an Easter egg hunt, and brunch or a special dinner with the family. Our May long weekend is often the official start of great weather and the outdoors…camping or having a barbecue with the family. Canada Day and Labour Day also is often highlighted around the great outdoors and moments…with family. I haven’t even brought up Thanksgiving and Christmas, but hopefully you get my point……it’s often around reuniting families.

Advertisements, media and specials tell us how we are suppose to feel. We are often educated around the idyllic situations. The warm, rich feelings we are suggested to have had does not necessarily exist in the same way for each family. The challenge here is there are long weekends and holidays throughout the year that has a pervasive theme around celebrating the rich experiences of family. Fortunately for many this is the case, but what if it isn’t? Now we have a not so subtle holiday that is telling us in plain letters B.C. Family Day.

No pressure here, is there?

If I were to stop this post at this point it would take away from my main purpose of writing this piece. What can I do around holidays when I am suppose to interpret these moments as a warm hug instead a magnification of all  of the dysfunctions. If there has been conflict in my family how can I expect it to go away suddenly around Christmas, or B.C. Family Day?

I guess the answer is it is unrealistic for one to expect that their family will transform from the Bundy’s or Costanza’s to the Waltons or Cleavers. What is realistic may be a place to start. To be honest about your situation may feel like a monumental step, but even more challenging would be to look at where real behaviour change begins…with yourself.

There may be many other family members who have been more responsible for the conflict in your family…but it is not possible to control others, it is even harder than trying to change yourself. Think of the patterns that happen in your family. All the traditions and routines. Some the years can blend into memories of dysfunction. If you are not happy with how your family celebrates can you change the pattern? Can change begin with how you approach the perhaps dreaded event? For example if you know the same arguments happen every year at the dinner table, change the activity to fit the realistic expectations. At Christmas Eve instead of sitting around the table maybe it’s sharing appetizers in front of movie, or meeting at Christmas light event for hot chocolate. If it’s the May long weekend, maybe it’s not hanging out all weekend but limited the time together. It’s this case it’s an attempt at quality versus quantity.

You can set goals for yourself in your gathering or activity to change your approach. If you know that you have not got along with certain family members maybe you limit your time interacting with them, but you are still attempting to be present with them in the same room. The other family members may continue to repeat and at times exasperate their dysfunction…but you can prepare yourself for these moments.

So next long weekend or holiday I urge you to attempt positive change for yourself! Even the smallest adjustments can make a huge difference in breaking these unwanted familial patterns. That’s right unwanted; chances are the other family members don’t wish to continue the conflict either. Focus on your next family time together and make a promise to yourself that you will make one positive adjustment.

I look forward to your feedback on how you are working at improving your family relationships. Is there a better way to spend Family Day?

Please feel free to contact me at Shawn McNabb Counselling 778-773-2465. I have a private counselling practice servicing the Surrey area.