Halloween might be over, but the end of one holiday signals the start of the ~holiday season~. If you’re like me, this can bring u a myriad of emotions. Though some people eagerly await the holiday season to embrace decoration, celebrating with loved ones and ring in the end of the year on a high note, that’s not the case for everyone. In fact, if you have a complicated relationship with your family, the holiday season can be an incredibly stressful time.
For the LGBTQ+ community, the idea of “family” is a little more complicated. Queer folks face higher rates of disconnection and rejection from their family after coming out. Especially with this recent election, there’s a very real anxiety that many people are dealing with at the thought of facing their homophobic family this holiday season.
Whether you’ve just recently come out or you’ve been out for years, going home and surviving the holidays take a lot more than packing smart and knowing which questions to ask. Here are a few tips to help make your holiday season go by a little smoother:
1. Have a self-care plan in place
There may be times when you’re hoping to leave earlier than expected. But when that isn’t possible, it’s essential to have a self-care plan in place that you can execute anywhere, at any time. When you’re feeling overwhelmed or in need of some time to recenter, find a quiet space that you can stay in for at least a few minutes. Pre-downloading meditation music, a playlist of music that you find calming, or having other self-care tools that involve your senses (maybe some essential oil or a favorite blanket) can help you stay focused and recharged. Take a few moments to listen to the music or to focus on breathing in that scent, and in as little as five minutes, you could have completed a full self-care routine on the go.
2. Have frequent check-ins
If you have a rocky relationship with your family, coordinating times when you can check in with friends from home or loved ones that are far away can help to remind you that you exist beyond the moments that seem too tumultuous to move forward from. Before you leave, coordinate times when you have check-ins (whether these are through texts or scheduled calls) with one or a few people that you trust. That way, when things seem to be going not-too-great, you have the cushion of knowing that you’ll be able to take a breath with someone outside of the situation.
3. Watch your intake
The holidays are often a time of indulgence and could easily turn into overindulgence if we aren’t careful. Being mindful of the ways that we indulge in things that can impact our decision-making skills or comprehension like alcohol or other triggers, can help us to remain level-headed and alert if situations arise that we need to take quick action for.
4. Understand (and stick to) your boundaries
Having boundaries in place, especially prior to the trip, can really make a difference when it comes to being prepared for any situation. What does this mean? Before heading back to spend time with your family, know what topics will leave you feeling especially charged or triggered – and what topics can do the same for others. It may not be foolproof, but knowing which topics to avoid and to tread lightly on can really help you decide how you want to react before things escalate.
It’s also important to make sure you stick to your boundaries. When it comes to family and people who we have grown up with, it can be harder to remain strict to the boundaries that you create for themselves. But remember that these boundaries are not only for your safety and well-being this holiday season, but theirs as well. Sticking to these boundaries not only shows kindness to yourself but those around you as well.
5. Get into the holiday season!
No matter what holiday you’re celebrating, getting into the core of the holiday season can help to ease the tension and take the pressure off of directly interacting with your family or loved ones back home with uncomfortable topics. Look up some mentoring or volunteer opportunities in your hometown, or spend time getting into decorating and helping out with the cooking. Getting into the holiday spirit really go a long way in helping you to celebrate and reconnect to what’s truly important.
No matter what time of year, dealing with homophobic family can be the last thing that we want to do. But it doesn’t have to be impossible. Embracing the spirit of the holiday season and having a plan in place, just in case, can really go a long way to help you get to what’s truly important; spending time with loved ones and celebrating the holiday.