- Family dynamics during holiday get-togethers can resurrect myriad emotions, positive and negative, that can reach a crescendo. These emotions can run high as family members vie for attention, dredge up the past, discuss present-day issues, and query one-another about future plans.
- All the births, deaths, medical problems, operations, family milestones, aging of parents, and issues of the past, present and future, are all on the table. It’s a loaded environment before you even walk through the door, and people really react.
- A lot of people suffer from anticipatory anxiety - The prospect of even attending a family gathering is often fraught with angst — before the occasion even gets under way. Introducing a new significant other to the family, meeting his or her parents or your new in-laws, and all meeting while under the stress of a bad economy, unemployment or low self-esteem, can compound the tension at the family holiday gathering.
- A comingling of different cultures at holiday family events can also prove unnerving.
- Stress resulting from financial problems and tension on the job can also surface at the family gathering.
- Fears of aging and being with elderly family members can conjure feelings of mortality and the realization that loved ones are aging.
- The presence of alcohol and drugs only exacerbates the anticipatory anxiety of an imminent gathering.
Dr. Stratyner’s Suggestions for an Enjoyable Holiday Family Gathering
- Acceptance - Accepting one’s role in the family as well as the strengths and shortcomings of other family members will go a long way toward helping everyone to survive the holiday gathering emotionally intact.
- Cognitive restructuring - Reorienting thinking patterns to correct negative thoughts and put a more positive “spin” on the situation, thereby making the situation more palatable psychologically and emotionally.
- Enjoying others company - Putting the emphasis on enjoying one-another’s company and de-emphasizing the pressure to buy gifts goes a long way toward heightening the enjoyment of the holiday season.
- Take the focus off of hot-button issues like money, work, religion and politics.
- Share more intimate stories with personal relevance. Tell stories about favorite holiday moments over the years. And inject humor whenever appropriate.
For interviews with Dr. Stratyner contact: Fred Yaeger (914) 525-9198
About Harris Stratyner Ph.D
Dr. Stratyner who has offices on the Upper East Side in Manhattan and in Yonkers in Westchester County is also a Clinical Associate Professor at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. He is a contributing author to the PDR Guide to Pediatric & Adolescent Mental Health. Dr. Stratyner developed the technique "Carefrontation," which is a treatment approach for addicted individuals and people with co-occurring disorders that advocates for treating every patient with respect and dignity–no shaming or blaming–but does hold people responsible for dealing with one’s own addiction or mental health condition. Dr. Stratyner hosts a radio program entitled “Here’s to Your Good Health” on WFAS AM 1230 in Westchester County, a program he developed and has hosted for 24 years. Dr. Stratyner was the first Ph.D. appointed Division Director of Chemical Dependency at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, Weill Cornell Westchester, and was also an Assistant Professor of Psychology in Psychiatry there, where he founded The Retreat at Westchester, a world-renowned addiction program.