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Tips To Get Through The Christmas Holidays Peacefully

nolacatholicparenting's podcast

Release Date: 12/24/2019

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Episode #7

Host Christine Bordelon talks with the Archdiocese of New Orleans’ Catholic Counseling Service director Joey Pistorius and bloggers and columnists Sarah McDonald and Gaby Smith about how they have peaceful holidays with family.

Christine Bordelon finds holidays can be fun but also stressful. Professor Dr. Stephen Cook of Virginia Theological Seminary Christmas, an Old Testament Scholar suggested calling a truce about talking about partisan politics ahead of time. He jokingly mentioned that Biblical families also were dysfunctional.

1:49: Joey Pistorius, who has a master’s degree in counseling, doesn’t like the word dysfunction but says a commonality in all families that is consistent – families are messy, complex, have different world and political views. They understand that they belong to each other whether they like it or not. It can be a challenge to people. He wasn’t sure a cease fire would work. Families have to think they are at war or at odds to begin to have a cease fire, when they may just be thinking they are just expressing an opinion.

3:30: Sarah said you can’t call a cease fire and take certain topics off the table. Families need to talk. The better idea is to model conversation, not avoid conversation. Avoiding conversation is how we’ve gotten in this mess, she said. We need to understand there is an innate connection between each family member. People can agree to disagree and have a civil conversation.

4:30: Context. Joey asked if holiday dinner is really the appropriate setting to discuss politics anyway. No one can control another person’s words or action. We can only choose how to respond, react and act ourselves. We can’t control how others respond to us. Put it in that context.

5:30: To combat some of the stress, Sarah said she and her family decided to avoid running from house to house on Christmas Day. When she was a child, her parents did that and it was stressful. Her way of seeing everybody involves having separate Christmas celebrations with different family members. We have been able to keep our holidays happy and respectful. We respect our time together and as family. “Nobody is running out the door.” She wants her kids to be home Christmas morning with their gifts. Is present with everyone and respectful to everyone’s time.

7:40: Christine said she began to cook at her house when the kids were young and having holiday dinners at her house.

8:30: Gaby has family living nationwide, but previously been spending Christmas morning with her family in New Roads with her grandfather and family ever since she was a child. But New Year’s they pick one destination to see one family member. In her family, there are lots of alpha males who like to talk and say what they want to say. Deciding to not talk about politics – that Christmas truce – didn’t work.

10:00: Joey said people with strong opinions are going to share their opinions, no matter what. He said it’s about finding how to respond appropriately, in a supportive way that might be educational if your opinion is different. If someone feels attacked, they will go on the defensive, others might chime in to egg on the conversation, and it will be challenging to keep the temperature down.

11:00: Sarah said the men in her family have their discussions outside over cigars and a drink, but end the discussion civilly. She said maybe they learned how to do it right.

11:30: Christine asks Joey about if there is an uptick in clients at Catholic Counseling during the holidays maybe feeling depression. He said holidays in general can be tough – a reminder of the loss of a loved one or that you are alone or that there are challenges within family that make holidays difficult. Catholic Counseling Service doesn’t see uptick around holidays. It’s more about when the New Orleans Saints team lose. There may be a strong correlation between sports teams and emotions.

13:20: Sarah, director of communications for the archdiocese, gets emails from people asking if the archbishop was at the game when they lose. People are invested in the Saints.

14: If people are struggling with holidays, what should people do. Counseling is specific to the individuals, but the holidays are filled with family obligations. And, people can get lost in those in other peoples’ expectations. We tell people to balance other peoples’ expectations with the clients’ needs. Attending an obligated event, but leaving early or attending with a trusted friend or relative who can be a buffer for difficult situations or challenging situations. During this holiday, give people the gift of not feeling obligated if it’s detrimental to their mental health.