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July 2024

My Dysfunctional Family Has Made Me Hate Christmas

Question

Dear Amber

 

I hope this message finds you well. I’m reaching out because Christmas is around the corner and I am therefore once again grappling with a situation that becomes increasingly challenging with each passing holiday season. Christmas, a time that’s supposed to be filled with joy and warmth, has become my personal nightmare.

You see, my parents are under the impression that our family is the epitome of holiday cheer. They insist on creating this facade of a perfect, loving family when, in reality, our history is marred with trauma and pain. The mere thought of pretending to be the picture-perfect daughter during Christmas makes my stomach churn.

Growing up, our household was far from the idyllic image my parents try to portray. Their actions caused me significant emotional distress, and I’m still working through the aftermath of the trauma they inflicted on me. Christmas serves as a painful reminder of the dysfunction that has always been present.

Every year, I find myself putting on a fake smile, engaging in forced conversations, and participating in family traditions that feel like a cruel mockery of the genuine love and warmth that should accompany the season. It’s a constant struggle to keep up the act, and it takes a toll on my mental health.

I’ve considered expressing my true feelings to my parents, but I fear the repercussions. They are not the type to acknowledge their faults, and I worry that confronting them about the charade we maintain during Christmas might lead to more conflict.

How can I navigate this Christmas without sacrificing my mental wellbeing? Is there a way to set boundaries without causing further damage to our already fragile relationship? How can I survive the festive season without completely losing myself in the process?

Sincerely,

A Weary Holiday Pretender

Answer

Hey there,

Thanks for reaching out. That sounds like such a tough situation that you’re in and I’m sorry that Christmas is such a tricky time. I can only imagine that it is so much harder with so many others leaning into Christmas joy at this time of the year. I hope though, that you can find some comfort in the knowledge that you are not alone in not liking Christmas and there are many others out there that find the festive season to be one of the hardest times of the year.

I’ve spent a little bit of time on this one, thinking about how best to approach this situation with your parents. It’s hard to know the exact right way to approach a situation like this one without knowing your parents and the context of what your family has been through together. At the end of the day though, it sounds like whatever has happened has had a big impact on the way you feel about your relationship with them.

My first approach is always to sit down for a conversation voicing how you feel. This doesn’t have to be a conversation that is accusatory or steeped in blame. It might be more about pointing out that because of certain things that have happened in

the past, Christmas is a hard time for you and opening a conversation about what has happened in your family unit that leads you to feel this way.

From here, you might want to change the way you approach family Christmas. Think about things like going late and leaving early, offering the day what you can and protecting your own energy.

In saying all of that, you will never have control over how your parents and family act and respond to this. You cannot control what they bring to the conversation and what they take on board. Your power is in the control you have over what you do, and being content in that you have handled the situation to the best of your ability in a way that aligns with your values.

I would also say that it sounds like there is a lot unresolved for you from your past. I would also consider reaching out to a psychologist to work through all of this and come up with a more comprehensive plan of how to navigate your family relationships.

All the best my dear, I’ll be thinking of you this holiday season.

To read more of Ambers advice, head here.

To read more about surviving Christmas Day with a dysfunctional family here.

Disclaimer: Please note that all information given in this article is general in nature and does not constitute psychological treatment. For tailored support, please ensure you reach out to a registered psychologist. In the case of an emergency, please contact LIFELINE (13 11 14) or call 000.

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Amber Sargeant

Meet Amber Sargeant, The Modern Muse’s resident psychologist, however, you might know her better as The Anxious Psych on TikTok or from her clinic The Sunshine Club Psychology. With a Masters of Professional Psychology, and a Masters of Psychology Practice (Clinical) under her belt, Amber works with all different kinds of presentations from anxiety and depression to personality disorders, ADHD, and everything in between. Her TikTok forms a community hub for accessible information about mental health and psychology in a way that is more approachable and understandable to the average person.

Amber is also someone who also struggles with Anxiety and aims to highlight that while we each have our own experience with difficult emotions and situations, we can learn to manage effectively and to make sure we are still able to build the life we want. Amber is such a warm and passionate clinician and we are so lucky to have her on our team. We can’t wait for her to help our readers “find their sunshine”.