December 23 - Connecting with Family

As a personal development coach, I notice that my schedule has the longest waiting list for appointments this time of year. It starts when my clients begin to make plans to visit their families, and it continues until the New Year begins and everyone returns home!

Why does it sometimes seem so difficult to connect in a loving way with our families? Some even say it even is impossible and then sigh heavily with resignation. Some are willing to “grin and bear it.” Others anesthetize themselves. Few are actually able to connect in a genuine and loving way…even most of the time.

What a wonderful gift it could be this season to find a new way to relate to your family! And, even if they are no longer living, this is possible. It begins, surprisingly enough, with remembering the pain we experienced when we were small…that we have been trying to avoid ever since.

All of us jumped to conclusions about ourselves when we were around our families as children. These conclusions persist today and unconsciously form many of the decisions that we make each and every day. For example, we might once have thought that we were unimportant in relation to a sibling…or powerless in the shadow of a parent…or incapable of bringing peace to a chaotic situation. When we go home for the holidays, we often anticipate feeling exactly the same way. And whatever we anticipate, we are likely to think that we experience.

Many of us got attention by being very, very good, and others received attention by being very, very naughty. There are literally thousands upon thousands of possible declarations that we might have made, but the one thing they all have in common is that they were formed with the immature logic of a child, and we have been viewing the world through that lens ever since.

What if you made it your mission this holiday to expand your view of your childhood? For example, if you thought your exciting place in the family had been usurped by younger siblings’ births, that you didn’t matter as much anymore, you might ask them to tell you what it was like for them to have an older sibling. Did they perhaps feel “less than you,” or that they could not keep up with you, or even that they didn’t matter as much since they were not the first born and never could be? What might you hear if you asked this same question of your parents…and then even believed their answer?!

What if you established a true adult connection with at least one member of your family? And, instead of always feeling like a powerless child around your parents, what if you asked them what it is like in their world today? Do they need anything that perhaps you could provide? How does it feel to be the parent of an adult child? Do they ever get lonely? What was it like for them when you were small? What was the best thing about you as a child, and what was the most difficult part of raising you?

What if you asked the “very, very good” (or the “very, very bad”) sibling what it was like to be in his/her position? What if you imagined yourself in that very position as well? What if you compared notes and discovered that you each just took a different route trying to arrive at the same destination…the one that said you mattered?

These or similar questions just might provide the genuine connection you have been searching for all of your life. They could create the holiday gift that truly lasts a lifetime.

What might you learn about your family…and what might you learn about yourself…if you only took a few of the steps mentioned in the previous paragraphs? What would prevent you from reaching out in this way to expand your world? Are you willing to work on this block so that you can have what you have always wanted? Would you consider giving the gift of genuine connection this holiday season?

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