I don’t need to tell you about holiday stress—everybody knows it. And people who are in touch with their inner kids know that the holidays, especially Christmas, bring up lots of feelings for these little ones. There is so much mythology about happy families that those whose families were unhappy get their noses rubbed in expectations that will never be fulfilled.
And when families are mixed—partly happy and partly unhappy—as so many are, the Christmas is a confusing time for little ones. My dad was like a child inside (for better and for worse). He loved to give things. But he hated to shop and he put it off till the last moment, then got furious with himself and took it out in anger and grumpiness with everyone around him. I had no idea as a child what was going on—I could just feel the anticipation, both mine and his, and then the waves of anger. What was happening? Had I done something wrong?
It’s supposed to be a time of togetherness and giving. But for some of us who were abused as kids, closeness was danger, so how can we rejoice? It’s supposed to be a time of parents giving tenderly to their kids, but if the parents are warped, how can they give in a simple heartfelt way? Parents may give with an edge of anger, or set up highly unreasonable expectations that the kids will be completely happy and good. They may give many presents but withhold that most important ingredient—love.
This most generous of holidays reminds us all the more of our deprivation. It’s an important time to make space for the inner child and to nurture him or her with love and attention, not so much with material things.