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The holidays are stressful, few would deny that. With each coming holiday season, there are presents to get, food to buy, family to prepare for, and as always the crazy holiday traffic or airfare hikes. The way this nation handles the holidays is full of stress, raising tensions, followed by empty bank accounts. What fails to be realized is that the holiday season is also full of sadness, remembering lost loved ones, missing various members for whatever reason, etc. This is a common reality that has been shifting within the world we know today. The same goes for the ever-changing definition of family. The ‘nuclear’ family (a father, a mother, and two children) has being hit several times over to create many different types of families. Shifting cultural views have come to now, be more inclusive in many ways. There are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning (LGBTQ) families, adoptive families, divorced and blended families, etc. The nuclear family is still around, but amongst an expanding definition of what it means to be “a family.”

This change in culture has swing to add stress on families. If one is from a divorced home, and blended families, holidays seemed to be even more stressful. One must juggle the typical holiday stress, on top of going between several family functions, or choosing between relatives. Many times, Thanksgiving is spent with one parent, then Christmas would be with the other parent, or split between both families. When blended families are involved, things get more complicated, and quickly. There’s an additional home to add into the already complicated mix. As time goes on, there are holiday choices to be made, sacrificing time with one set of relatives (biological, step, etc.) to be with the other. As complicated as it can be, there is hope that the holidays can still be the joyous events that they once were intended to be.

From a parent’s perspective, negotiating this stress might tell children that it’s great, “Because Johnny, you get three Christmas’. Triple the presents, triple the fun.” Parents might get some quiet time when it’s not their holiday, but having to sacrifice seeing children during the festive family time. One must look to the bright side during such chaos. Knowing that it is the holiday season, is something that can give permission to families to slow down and remember what the holidays are truly about. Spending some much needed time with family. Good or bad, family is what you make it. Whether that includes more friends to replace troublesome familial relations, or figuring out how to get through the stress that’s implied with travel, cooking, present hunting, etc. The holidays are about shuffling time around in order to spend it with those that you love, and feel supported by. So whether that’s carting kids off to the other co-parent, joining a new step-family function, adjusting to a new family, etc., hopefully this holiday season can be a reminder to shuffle back to the family priorities that one might have. So, good tidings to you, and all of your kin, whoever you consider that to be. And safe travels along your upcoming Holiday Shuffle.

By: Michelle Cook, IMFT
Intern Marriage & Family Therapist
License Number: IMF79712

Clinical Supervisor: Donna Lindley, LMFT
Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist
License Number: LMFT40143

To schedule an appointment with Ben Novell, MS, LMFT, LPCC, Janelle Novell, LMFT, RPT-S or any of our therapists, please call 951-252-9911. (Image from

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