Even though the TV sitcoms and warm, fuzzy, feel-good movies often give unrealistic portrayals of the happy holiday family, that doesn't have to mean a thumbs-down holiday season, says Charlotte Shoup Olsen, Kansas State University Research and Extension family systems specialist.
Few families go through life without experiencing the death of a family member or friend, divorce or disappointment such as the loss of a job, onset of an illness or concern about a child's choices. For most people, however, it may still be possible to find joy in the holidays and anticipation of the new year.
"First, acknowledge the fact that you're not alone. Everyone has ups and downs and will face challenges in life," Olsen advises.
"Think of a disappointment for what it is: the loss of a dream," Olsen says. "When a company downsizes and a career opportunity ends, a dream of success can be lost.
The same is true when a marriage ends, through death or divorce. "The hope and dream of a life together ends when a spouse dies or fails to honor what his or her spouse had considered a lifetime commitment," adds Olsen. Mourning such losses is the first step in moving toward acceptance and personal growth.
"To improve your outlook, think about your goals and values," says Olsen. "Consider what you have accomplished and make time to be with persons who nurture and encourage you."
If you want to improve relationships with others, be respectful, thoughtful and intentional. In everyday life, a willingness to try something new, rather than repeat behaviors that continue to produce the same outcome may be more likely to lead to success.
Suppose, for example, a sizable, but unexpected bill arrives in the mail. The spouse who opens the mail is concerned about the bill, but rather than rush angrily toward his or her spouse who is busy organizing the family's meal, he or she waits until a time when daily stress eases and the couple will be able to talk calmly.
"Reach out. Look for ways to take the focus off yourself and focus on others," Olsen says. "Adding some humor to your life also can be beneficial. A good laugh can lighten the mood. Celebrate the positive and skip the pity party."
More information on managing relationships successfully is available at county and district K-State Research and Extension offices. Information is also available on the Web site: www.oznet.ksu.edu and click on "Home, Family and Youth."
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