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Holiday debrief: Now's the time for a family review of Christmas

Talk about what went right and what went wrong, says family psychologist

Clare Hennig - CBC News

January 02, 2018

With the holiday season in the rearview mirror, now's the time to address family holiday stresses so next year is smoother, says family psychologist. (Tara Todras-Whitehill/Associated Press)

As magical as the holiday season is, it can also be a stressful and difficult time for families — especially if everyone has different ideas of what the celebrations should look like.

Family psychologist Susan Gamache said a family debrief of the holidays, once the dust has settled in January, will help make Christmas more manageable next time.

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"We do generally think of debriefs after critical incidents like accidents or things like that," she said. "But debriefs can also be used ... as more of a review."

The conversation could address anything from wanting a menu change or not liking the way gifts are exchanged to more serious issues of family dynamics during the holidays.

"Often, a lot of the stuff that's been sitting around all year comes to the surface and we go into Christmas with that mixed bag of [emotions]," Gamache told CBC host of The Early Edition Stephen Quinn.

Before the holidays, people tend to be less inclined to ruffle feathers or take risks by starting a discussion, Gamache said, and so January is a better time to bring up issues.

Opening the door to discussion

The key is not to expect everyone to jump on board at first and to take the debrief in small steps.

"It's a good idea to trust your intuition on who might be available to have these conversations rather than trying to force people who are not inclined to participate right off the top," she said.

In her experience working with families, she's found that having a few people begin a conversation can encourage others to join later.

"It's really engaging with those conversations in a way that is safe and respectful that starts softening the edges and opening the door," she said.

For those who want to initiate a debrief but don't know where to start, Gamache suggested bringing it up with a family therapist first to discuss how to best approach the issue.

"You can just never know how it's going to go. All you can do is just begin with good faith and respect," she said.

To hear more, click on the audio link below:

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As magical as the holiday season is, it can also be a stressful and difficult time for families — especially if everyone has different ideas of what the celebrations should look like.  8:25

With files from The Early Edition.

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