Family gatherings can be difficult.
Or they can be amazing. It all depends on how we manage ourselves. Yes, we have all the power to make our holidays with our family wonderful or woeful. When we react to what others say or do, we ruin the entire day. On the other hand, if we are prepared to respond with the 3 F’s in mind (Firmly, friendly, and fairly) we will have a great time.
When Ron was in prison...
I learned that people say stupid things when your husband is in prison. Especially during the holiday season. I am not sure why… maybe they are just at a loss for words so they spit out the first thing that pops in their head. Whatever the reason, you need to prepare yourself to navigate through all the ignorance, stupidity, and misunderstandings.
First, I want to start with what NOT to say.
Although it can be really tempting to shoot back a cynical retort, or verbally engage in a war, do not do it. You are creating holiday memories for yourself and your children. Do your best to make them fun! Your kids will remember these holidays for the rest of their lives. They are already suffering the disadvantage of having Dad in prison. Your children do not need to see you and your family at war. They need as much stability and safety as you can provide.
After barely getting through the first Christmas with Ron in prison, I promised myself that my sons would have a lot of presents from then on. The next several years, I found myself looking for ways to get as many gifts as I could for my sons. I needed to keep buying things.
When someone says this, Do NOT say this:
Is your husband still in prison? – Yes, you idiot, I just told you he is serving 10 yrs
Don’t you get to see him on Christmas? – That is a dumb question! Would I be HERE if I could be there?
Are you still with your husband? – Why do you care, you nosy, judgmental…
Well, I could go on and on—but you can see my point. Saying the first thing that comes into your head, will just add drama and trauma that you don’t need.
Decide how you will manage crazy questions and stick to your script no matter what. Responses like, “thank you so much for your concern, but I would rather talk about something else,” go a long way to keeping peace.
Dealing with family can be tough; be prepared and make this a wonderful time of celebration together.
I am rooting for you!