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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Relatively Speaking

This week is the official kick-off to the holiday season, where many families look forward to get-togethers for special holidays, like Thanksgiving. But this time of year can also be anxiety-filled for certain family members who get tense with the anticipation of seeing relatives they aren't particularly compatible with. The disjointedness and dysfunction we each possess seem to come out in full swing during the holidays. What do you do in cases where a spouse or sibling doesn't get along with your mother or father for instance? How do you ease the tension at the dinner table when one family member raves about Obama and your brother says "Obama-Obrother!" Many movies have played up this scenrio, a few movies are coming out this season including "Four Christmases" starring Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon and an Indie film called "Familiar Strangers". These movies provide a great platform for seeing the issues many families have around the holidays and relative family dysfunction.

I recently had a discussion with my children about tolerance. Sometimes they come home complaining about someone in their class and I have to be sure I put the objective parental hat on and say "OK now, let's try and be tolerant of that person. Perhaps there is a reason they are that way." And oftentimes there is a very valid reason and we try to analyze what it could be. It has helped my children understand to look beyond the exterior. But at what point do you and your children realize, - some people are more difficult to get along with than others? Some people don't have a good social radar and do not know how to behave in a larger group. The chances are that if someone is hard to get along with, there are others that are feeling the same thing about that person and pretty soon, that person is labeled. What's the best way to react in those situations?

From my own experience, it takes time - time to get over your own dysfunction and time to see another person and what it took to make them who they are. When you can see that a piece of their history created their insecurity or quirk, it helps build bridges toward empathy and perhaps appreciation. But not all stories have happy endings, and sometimes it is what it is. In those cases, I guess it's good to know that there are goodbyes to all of these family reunions so that we can each go back to our regular post-holiday lives.

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