Family Frameworks

Playing Tug of War at Holiday Time



Dec 2012


I will not play tug o' war. I'd rather play hug o' war. Where everyone hugs instead of tugs, Where everyone giggles and rolls on the rug, Where everyone kisses, and everyone grins, and everyone cuddles, and everyone wins.

Shel Silverstein

Our oldest daughter has decided for the past several years that she and her family cannot come back for Christmas.  We would love for it to be different but we also understand that she and her husband are making decisions for their family and what they think is best for them.   We must honor and respect that.  We are all trying to figure out a way as a family to do our time together in a way that works out for everyone.  But how do you do that when there is so much emotion and so many different people to consider.  “Grandpa is getting older and might not be there next year”.  “The kids want to have their time to play with the toys”.  “We want to spend time just as a family”.  “We want to start our own traditions”  Sound familiar?

Each family becomes a unique entity.  There are things that must be considered on her side and his side.  The best way I know to figure this out is to TALK about it.  You both must  have enter into the conversation and bring up your thoughts, concerns and your desires on the different points of the decision.    Only when everything is out on the table can a decision be made.

There is no sense in assuming that the other person should know how you feel about the situation, because they don’t.  They are not you, they don’t have the same history as you do and don’t have the same exact emotions that you have.

Emotions can be pretty intense when you get into these talks so set the ground rules.  Give each other respect.  Let one person explain while the other listens and actually states the emotions that are rising from the talk that is going on.  Don’t interrupt and stop if the feelings get too intense.  Listen with an open mind.  Remember, you are allies not enemies.

Once you have everything out and on the table show respect to each other by trying to put yourself in their shoes to understand why they want to do it that way.  Know the stories and the background, that helps to give you the empathy to be able to understand your partner so much better.

Going into this season when you feel tugged here and tugged there, my first advice is to listen and show empathy,  listen and find out why your spouse your family your children, want to do something a certain way.  Go into it with an open mind.  Looking for the good in it rather than thinking that they are trying to just get their way or that they are trying to hurt you, look at what they are REALLY thinking. But then don’t be afraid to share your thoughts, concerns and desires.  When you do this you are more open to new ideas and solutions.  The tug is softer and the compromises are much easier.

This sounds simplistic, but most of the time when you are in the middle of it all doing the above is the hardest thing you have ever done. We have listed some resources either books, counselors or websites that might be helpful for you.


2 Responses to “Playing Tug of War at Holiday Time”

  1. Matthew Smith

    Great advice. The hard part is to actually do it! I think we all can benefit from doing this…even inour family!

  2. Kathy Schleier

    Yep, I agree, I know I struggle. We just keep trying.

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