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Benefits Of Family During The Holidays

What Causes Holiday Stress & How your Family Can Help

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Holiday Stress Effects:

Via giphy.nbc

The holiday’s are a time for joy and celebration, but along with that comes with the negative stress of the holiday season as well. During the holidays we are likely to engage in more negative thinking because we set expectations for ourselves. For example, we might worry our gifts or holiday parties will not be good enough. We may also worry about money and having enough of it to spend on our friends and loved ones. Moreover, we are more likely to experience stress and anxiety during this time, which is related to expectations, money, and can even be brought upon by feelings of nostalgia. Although the holiday’s bring about this stress, the best way to combat it is by venting to and spending time with our families in order to receive social support from them (Melton, 2007; Mata, 2013).

How the Holiday’s Help us as a Family:


It has been found that our well-being increases when we are focused on our family and spend time with them during the holiday season , whereas focusing on gifts and materialistic issues lowers our well-being. Therefore, spending time with our family should be the main goal of the holiday season (Krasser & Sheldon, 2002). Holiday’s are considered a ritual within families, and these rituals help us and our families in several ways.

Holiday rituals and activities allow us to strengthen our family bonds. This is because when we spend time together as a family and partake in holiday rituals, we establish a group identity and feel as if we are part of a cohesive group. In turn, this helps to create a sense of belonging. These rituals also help us to maintain our family relationships. Moreover, they can help to integrate new members into the family, and even establish intergenerational connections, such as creating bonds between grandchildren and grandparents. In addition, they help assist in our personal identity formation, as we consider ourselves part of the larger family group. Most importantly, rituals and time spent with family provide emotional support ( Fiese, Tomcho, Douglas, Josephs, Poltrock, & Baker, 2002). It has also been found that partaking in holiday rituals leads to higher marital satisfaction (Fiese & Tomcho, 2001). All of these things can help to strengthen our family relationships, as well as combat holiday stress (Fiese et. al, 2002).

How to Provide Support to Family During the Holiday Season:


1. Offer to try to help family members, like helping your parents cook or prep for the family holiday event.

2. Offer emotional or social support, i.e. validate your family members feelings and make sure to verbally affirm them of all of their great qualities as well as provide words of encouragement.

3. Talk with family members, and more importantly, listen to them and let them vent about their frustrations and provide any insight or help you can.

4. Help with decision making! If a family member is struggling, offer them advice for their best course of action. Whether it be a something as simple as helping a family member decide what gift to buy, or if it something more serious such as helping them decide which family they will visit on the holiday if they are married and they and their partner are having conflict over whose family to visit.

(Zimet, Dahlem, Zimet & Farley, 1988)

Topics to Avoid During the Holiday:

1. Politics.

Sometimes our families beliefs differ greatly from us, and in order to prevent conflict we avoid bringing up the topic when we know our beliefs are conflicting and that the issue has caused problems in the past (Guerrero & Afifi, 1995a). Aka, don't wear your MAGA hat to dinner.

2. Relationships: "When are you going to get married?"

Young adolescents in the family try to avoid disclosing negative experiences and dating experiences, so please do not bring up a combination of the two. Try not to overly question younger family members why they are still single, not yet married, or press them with questions about what happened to their ex and why they are not together anymore. We know you just want them to live happily ever after with someone special, but they are either happily single, or unhappily single, so either way, try not to discuss this past initial inquires (Guerrero & Afifi, 1995b).

3. Finances

Research has shown that grandparents and adult grandchildren have stronger relationships when self-disclosing to one another, and the holiday’s is a great time to do this. However, research has also shown that this intergenerational contact and disclosure has some unwritten rules, one being that they do not discuss finances. Grandparents and their adult grandchildren tend to avoid discussing financial information, which can be a sensitive subject for many people, especially at the holidays if there is monetary stress. So at the dinner table, it is best not to bring this up (Priddis, 2015).


Fiese, B. H., & Tomcho, T. J. (2001). Finding meaning in religious practices: the relation between religious holiday rituals and marital satisfaction. Journal of Family Psychology, 15(4), 597.

Fiese, B. H., Tomcho, T. J., Douglas, M., Josephs, K., Poltrock, S., & Baker, T. (2002). A review of 50 years of research on naturally occurring family routines and rituals: Cause for celebration?. Journal of family psychology, 16(4), 381.

Guerrero, L. K., & Afifi, W. A. (1995a). What parents don’t know: Topic avoidance in parent-child relationships. Parents, children, and communication: Frontiers of theory and research, 219-245.

Guerrero, L. K., & Afifi, W. A. (1995b). Some things are better left unsaid: Topic avoidance in family relationships. Communication Quarterly, 43(3), 276-296.

Mata, E. (2013, November 04). Paso del Norte Health Foundation: As holidays approach, need for emotional support grows. El Paso Times, p. El Paso Times, Nov 4, 2013.

Melton, V. (2007). Have yourself a stressful little Christmas? Look to family, friends for support this holiday season, therapist advises. McClatchy - Tribune Business News, McClatchy - Tribune Business News, Dec 6, 2007.

Priddis, D. (2015). Family Connections: The Impact of Self-disclosure, Solidarity, and Stereotyping on Relational Satisfaction in Grandparentadult Grandchild Dyads, ProQuest Dissertations and Theses.

Kasser, T., & Sheldon, K. M. (2002). What makes for a merry Christmas?. Journal of Happiness Studies, 3(4), 313-329.

Zimet, G. D., Dahlem, N. W., Zimet, S. G., & Farley, G. K. (1988). The multidimensional scale of perceived social support. Journal of personality assessment, 52(1), 30-41.

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