This is the time of year with plenty of gatherings for friends and family that create opportunities for fun and frivolity. A time to celebrate, share, give and receive. It’s joyous and magical. But for some, it shines a spotlight on everything that feels wrong or is missing. Christmas can be incredibly overwhelming and the source of the burden can come from so many things in the complicated life of stepfamilies; getting together with judgmental extended family members and in-laws, battles with bitter ex-spouses, depressed partners, disappointed or angry children, and tragically, children who are alienated from their parents.
It can be a time of powerful reminders of painful and unhealthy dynamics and profound loss. So many people want to shut the doors on celebrations, parties and gifts. So how can you support yourself and/or your partner as you navigate this hectic emotionally charged month?
For the stepparent: Breathe. Yes breathe. Find a quiet spot just for yourself. Slow, deep breaths that fill your rib cage. Then an exhale that drains the stress and sadness/anger in your jawline, your shoulders, around your heart and your stomach. Repeat the cycle until you are relaxed. Visualize your family, social or work event or situation you are challenged by. Envision yourself being calm, strong and peaceful, surrounded by silver light. Whatever is the source of your stress falls away as it touches your silver light. Breathe in your strength, breathe in calm and peace. Let that be your mantra as you navigate these next few weeks.
Find the opportunity to breathe and visualize, stretch, drink tea, journal or colour. Time away from the noise just for yourself so you can breathe, think and relax. Then set the intention that the silver light surrounding you will always be there as you meet with difficult people or circumstances. You’ve just set a simple boundary! Once you get in a place of peace and strength you can support the others in your home. But the peace starts with you.
For your partner: Now you can approach your spouse with calmness and greater clarity. You are your partner’s greatest support. If you are more relaxed, it can help them calm. How does your partner handle stress? Does s/he feel it physically in the form of headaches? Does s/he feel it mentally losing sleep or being forgetful? Does s/he respond emotionally responding in anger or frustration?
Stress, grief and loss are typically experienced in these similar forms: physical symptoms, mental symptoms, emotional symptoms or spiritual symptoms. Support them by meeting them in the way they grieves or handles stress. Send them for a walk with the dog or go with them for physical support. Get a good book or an empty journal to write in for mental support. Watch a funny movie together to make each other laugh and support each other emotionally. Support them to talk to their spiritual advisor or reconnect with hope to support them spiritually.
For you as a couple: Nourish your relationship this season. Find time alone for the two of you. If you can’t afford a date night away then tuck the kids away in bed early. Night owl teens or preteens? How about giving them special permission to stay up to watch a movie on TV or read or something that keeps them in their room? Then lock your bedroom door and go into stealth mode. Have a picnic in your room, read each other bits from romance novels (or whatever inspires you); write each other love notes and pass them back and forth, create a family vision board or just be silly and have fun. You can talk about what’s been happening but remember to end your night on a positive note. For the next few weeks send your partner texts or emails with little notes of appreciation. It will come back to you tenfold. I promise!
Have a blessed Christmas and holiday season!