Ask Gwen: Family Christmas Dysfunction


I am an adult woman with a dysfunctional family whom I am mostly estranged from, with the exception of the holidays. I continue to participate in family holidays for my children, however I find myself continually berated, criticized, and humiliated by family members at these events. I do not want to subject myself to this! However, I am torn between and the feeling of obligation I have to my kids, that they are included in family celebrations. What should I do?

Gwen’s Answer:

I have to wonder how good it is to take your children to these holiday celebrations where they hear people verbally abusing their mother. At the very least they should hear you say, “It’s not nice to talk to me like that. Please stop.”

I personally would not go anywhere where I was continually treated as you are.

If you want your children to have contact with family members, then plan a short visit at other times.

You can make the holiday wonderful for your children…you don’t need a family celebration to do that.

You need to find the strength to tell the family you will not be coming if they are going to be rude to you. I trust that you are not also being rude to them, because that changes things. You don’t say how old your children are, but it is okay to tell them we are not going this year. If the children really want to see a family member that they miss due to the estrangement, make that happen at a different time. If they are rude then, cut the visit short stating that these visits must only reflect kindness. If they can do that you can try again another time.

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