Regression back to our teenage selves is not uncommon during family holiday gatherings. We enter a relative’s home as an adult, but somehow once we’re seated at the table (and barely before the turkey has been passed around) we’re behaving like we’re 30 years younger. Oh, those familiar smells, faces, and conversations — coupled with lots of memories — make for a tricky recipe.
As we go back in time to our younger selves, we begin to bicker with siblings about the same things that irked us 25 years ago. Or we start bragging about our kids so that our cousins who we have always been competitive with will be impressed.
Well, things are different now. There may be tweens and teens at the table who are observing you and learning how to act and not act on the holidays.
My suggestions as a clinical psychologist and a mother:
- Take it easy with the booze. You may regret telling that story about what you and your cousin did back when you were teens. No, your parents can’t punish you now but you may inadvertently be giving your kids the wrong messages. And, this will come back to haunt you after the holidays. Trust me.
- Do not compare the kids to one another. Maybe that’s what your parents did. It may lead to unnecessary rivalries and competitiveness.
- Let go of old grudges. Do you really want to teach your teens to never let anything go? Does it still really matter that you weren’t invited to the beach twenty years ago?
- Remember who you are. You are an adult now. It’s NOT your turn to act like a kid.
Just remember, the turkey is for eating, not for mimicking.
About Barbara Greenberg, PhD
Barbara is a Ph.D. clinical psychologist who specializes in the treatment of adolescents and their well-intentioned but exhausted parents. She is the co-author of Teenage as a Second Language-A Parents Guide to Becoming Bilingual with Jennifer Powell-Lunder PsyD and the co-creator of the website http://www.talkingteenage.com.