As we near the end of October, it is natural for couples to begin to discuss holiday plans. Holiday planning can be stressful, but this year has the added stress of the pandemic and COVID-19 concerns. Why do the holidays bring up so much stress? The holidays often include a lot of physical and emotional demands. The holidays also include more family gatherings in which we may be confronted with family dynamics that feel unhealthy and overwhelming.
This year, more than ever, couples need to create a plan together about what feels like the best way to handle the holidays. It is important that this plan feels co-created between both partners and that both partners concerns are addressed.
As you create this plan together, think about the following:
- Consider the health risks for each partner. As the pandemic wears on, each of us are trying our best to consider the risk of daily activities. Small family gatherings where family members have been socially isolating may be lower risks than larger family gatherings. If being physically together with family for the holidays is not possible, how could you still find ways to connect with family members safely in ways that feels emotionally fulfilling?
- Create new rituals. Most couples and families have holiday traditions that make the holidays special. Consider creative ways of keeping these rituals going or consider creating new rituals. Could you have dinner together as a family on Zoom? Could you make your famous holiday side dish and drop it off to family members?
- Allow space for feelings of grief and loss. For some partners, not being able to celebrate the holidays in a traditional way might bring to surface feelings of grief and loss. It is okay to be disappointed. It is okay to allow yourself space to feel these feelings—healthy emotional coping requires us to lean into our emotions. What your partner needs most from you at this time is to feel you are there for them even when the feelings of anger and disappointment arise.
Debra has over ten years of community and clinical work with individuals, children, parents, and families and has been published in the Journal of Happiness Studies and Autism Research and Treatment. She received her doctorate in Marriage and Family Therapy from Eastern University and has gained specialized, intensive training in emotionally focused therapy (EFT) and Theraplay. She also has skills in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), strengths-based therapies, self-compassion training, attachment-based therapies, play therapy, and solution-focused therapy.
Dr. Debra Rezendes is a Resident in Marriage and Family Therapy and is working towards licensure as a Marriage and Family Therapist in Virginia. She works under the supervision of Marianne S. Coad, MAMFC, LMFT, LPC-S. In the event that clients have any questions or concerns about Debra’s work, her supervisor can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, (703) 657-9721, or 10379-B Democracy Lane, Fairfax, VA 22030.