I normally travel a few hours with my husband and kids to my in-laws for the holidays. It's fun, the kids love it, and it's great to be around family, etc., But, honestly, I want to start building our own traditions in our own home (e.g., leaving cookies out for Santa, wearing pajamas together in our basement, singing carols with our neighbors).
Making this change is going to cause hurt feelings with my extended family. Any tips on how I can do this tactfully, without any drama and no hurt feelings?
— Thanks, Breaking Traditions
Dear Breaking Traditions,
Your family is going to miss you and this change will definitely be an emotional adjustment for them. While you can't change that reality, there are some things you can do in order to lessen the impact, affirm your love for them, and continue to have them be a part of your holiday celebrations, even if you aren't there in person.
Here are a few things to consider when changing things up for the holidays.
Have these "new tradition" conversations as early as possible. The holidays are filled with tear-jerking commercials, family time and fond memories. This means that feelings are super tender. In order to decrease the chances of family drama, start to break the news in June or July when emotions aren't running so high.
Another benefit of sharing the new early is it gives your family time to process the change, ask questions and not feel blindsided. Give space and allow for this. You may feel like, "I'm an adult, it's my right to make this choice!" That's true, but your family loves you and they want you around. Listen to their concerns.
With some effort, even though you won't be in the same physical space as your in-laws, you can still help them feel included by doing things such as a video chat Christmas morning or before Thanksgiving dinner. You might even consider asking for their input - "How did you make Thanksgiving special the first time you held it at your home? Any fun ideas on how we can make this special for our children?" This way they are with you in spirit even if they aren't there in person.
Since you won't see your family during the holidays, set up a specific time when you will see them and make that day special too. Having something set will help ease any concerns that not going home for the holidays is going to lead to eventual distance in your relationships.
The fundamental rule to all of these steps is that especially in times of change, look for ways to affirm and remind your family that you love them. These demonstrations of love will go a long way in softening hearts and communication, and strengthening relationships instead of hurting them.
Angela has been very involved in the theater community, appearing in most recently For Colored Girls with People Productions, and Seven with Pygmalion Theater Company in Salt Lake City, Utah. She is having so much fun working on the column "Ask Angela" and hopes it can be a great benefit to readers!