Planning ahead can prevent family tension



You may be packed and ready to head home for the holidays, but before you do, make sure you plan ahead for what is likely to be an emotional and intense time.


Heading home for the holidays is something most students look forward to yet few plan ahead for what is likely to be an emotional and intense time. For some, the changes that have taken place in the home, themselves and their parents could be a new source of conflict — but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Steve Knish, a registered psychologist at the University of Alberta’s Student Counselling Service, offers some helpful tips on how to make your own visit to the nest go as smoothly as possible:

•If you’ve had a shocking new development, or want to bring home an amorous new bed-mate, don’t wait until the day you arrive — discuss potential problems beforehand.

“The most important thing would be to communicate with parents before coming home. It’s a good idea to work things out before you arrive,” Knish said.

•Establish rules and borders early on, so as to prevent potential confusion and hurt feelings later.

“Ask yourself, ‘Am I going to be able to use the car? Do I have to do my own laundry? Who cleans the bathroom?’ Find out about anything you’re unsure of,” Knish said.

•Since the holiday season tends to fill up with familial visits and other obligations, make sure you clarify any commitments you’re going to be expected to make. Standing up grandma to run off with your high school chums for an evening is definitely not appropriate.

“Iron out what family functions you’ll have to be at, and when, in advance.”

•If you’re stay is likely to be long, don’t be selfish — it never hurts to help out a bit around the house.

“Think about contributing chores and helping to run the house. There’s lots to do so ask yourself, ‘In what ways can I contribute?’”

•If problems and conflicts do pop up, try to respond in a respectful way but don’t hold back your thoughts either —make sure both sides understand each other correctly.

“Make sure that things aren’t left unsaid. When people get to plug in their own interpretations, sometimes those interpretations are not accurate. Clarification can be very important in preventing or dealing with conflict,” Knish said.

Ultimately a trip home is about reconnecting with loved ones so be patient, have fun and try to see the bigger picture.

“Christmas is already a source of much potential stress, so try and prevent your trip home from being an added one.

“See it as a transitory thing — it’s a real opportunity to become mature,” Knish said.