…Single or Blended
The festive season is a wonderful time of the year, perhaps the most wonderful of them all. It’s a time for giving and sharing; a time for compassion, kindness, love, laughter and romance, as well as to spend more time than usual with the loved ones. Many will travel to see family members and friends. This time of the year can easily stir up discontent and insecurity in blended families, those who have younger, married siblings with children; or those who have judgmental family members and worse yet for the single ones. As families gather during this season, they may remind one of the lack of their spouse and children. Relatives ask about significant others and one just have to smile and explain that there’s no one just yet and for those who can’t necessarily stand the judgements they opt to just stay away.
It can be difficult to experience holiday cheer when the desire for other circumstances is so powerful. Steven Harageib, a social worker at the Lifeline/Childline Namibia says that the festive season is a very bipolar and parallel time because there are people who gather with their families and travel. “It is also during this time that people spend a lot beyond their means so there is a lot of anxiety around issues relating to excessive alcohol use, drug abuse and over eating. Then you have the flip side of people who don’t have access to families, people who are lonely and people who live in places they have moved to recently and probably don’t have friends. So this comes along with issues of depression, feelings of loneliness and feelings of separation,” explains Steven.
Steven says that this is also the time when people form smaller groups of likeminded and like circumstantial friends. From a psychological point of view, he says that people feel most drawn to buying during this season because of the colours, the music and the red tags that read SALE in shopping malls. At the end of the month that is when people realise that they have spent more than they were supposed to.
It’s also issues around gender; women tend to work harder during the festive season because they still have to go home and prepare food whereas men just go and get drunk and chill. Even in the space where there is a lot of people one can still feel disconnected, while others may be feeling tired and exhausted emotionally. Beyond a doubt this also makes relational connections harder even when you are in a bigger group. That is why some people prefer to stay alone.
What sets you apart…?
Issues around conflict mostly separate people from their families because people don’t like conflict. Most people don’t know how to confront it and a component around intergenerational dialogue also features where one’s parents or grandparents have a one way of thinking while young people have another different way of thinking. Steven notes that some people might not want to be asked about when they are getting married or being asked about when they are getting children. Those questions contribute to negative feelings and if one doesn’t know how to confront and deal with it relationally, it can really paralyse someone.
Steven says that there are issues around, especially for, singles and women being surrounded by the aunts and cousins asking about when they are going to get a boyfriend or when they are going to have children. There are also issues about hierarchy in families where some family members are more successful than others and certain people might feel like they do not add any value or contribution. “It mostly has to do with communication. People make assumptions and by making assumptions people withdraw themselves,” says Steven. He further narrated that there are issues that people face from isolation. “Many people just don’t feel like they are connected to others which makes them become so individualistic. Many people are finding family in friendships because they spend more time with their friends and feel estranged to their families.”
With divorce or remarriage, many things change, including seasonal celebrations. Holidays, such as Christmas may be challenging for blended families. Unresolved feelings, animosity, and mixed loyalties can sidetrack what should be a happy time. Blended families are not only made up of children, biological parents and stepparents. One may have a close-knit extended family that includes four sets of grandparents and several aunts and uncles who all want to spend time with the children during holidays.
Steven says that more families are becoming more mixed up from negotiating issues around where to go and which family to go to, At times a couple may plan not to travel during the season but the grandparents want to spend the festivities with their grandchildren. “And that can bring some relational conflicts as well because if you send the children to a specific place one has to send money and food along which may go beyond ones budget.”
With most local blended families the issues revolve around step parents, step children and the involvement of the other parent. Steven is of the opinion that it is important for some level of engagement to remain between both parties. “The step mother must know the mother of the children, they don’t have to be friends but they need to at least have some level of communication and it should never be the father and the mother communicating because then one gets isolated and then gets frustrated because they are also part of the child’s life.” It is also important for parents to plan for the holidays early and notify the mother of the children so that the mother doesn’t assume that the child will be with her during the holiday while it is the opposite.
Steven also warns parents to never talk about the other parent in front of the child. They must have some level of dignity and honour for the parent of the child. “To a certain degree the step parent will always be the evil one to the child because the child will always defend his or her mother.
Make the best of the season
According to the social worker, it is important to recognize the signs of burn-out which are low energy and low appetite as they are the early signs of depression. “One can counter them by listing things around such as how you have grown as a person and the key lessons that you have learnt. The counselling centre 116 lifeline is also open every day right throughout and if someone wants to call in they can call to speak to a counsellor for assistance,” he adds.
It is also important to reach out to the people around you, people that are in the vicinity to engage with out of the house. The big thing is also to stay off social media or limit your social media activities as it may bring a lot of anxiety when you see people posting photos of them having fun. It can almost exasperate one’s loneliness because they see people having those amazing times on social media while they are not. “It doesn’t necessarily mean that they have fun the whole time it might just be a snap of it. Social media can almost blow the reality out of proportion that will let you feel like you are missing out,” says Steven.
“It is important to be aware of who we are emotionally. As people, it is important to be cautious of our psychology.” Steven also urges people to use the festive season to contemplate for the following year and for the future, reflecting on what has happened. “Put realistic plans for the coming year and have something to look forward to,” he says. Rather than focusing on what you don’t have or settling for less than what you want and deserve, be appreciative and grateful for what you do have in your life. If you can hold on to that, the Holidays will be an enjoyable time for you.