You either gave your child some genetic material or chose to adopt. That means you’re a parent. Time to act like it.

Parenting is difficult.

It’s rarely fun.

And it’s easy to fall into the trap of wanting to be the “cool” parent or even of wanting your child to think of you as a “best friend.”

However, the reality is that your kid doesn’t need another friend. What s/he needs is a parent. Technically, that’s what you are. After all, you either gave some of your genetic material, or you chose to adopt. When that happened, you agreed to be a parent.

Now you need to act like one.

Stability is important for children.

One of the most important things you can do as a parent is provide a stable environment for your child.

Some research indicates that stability is more important than family structure. This is a huge relief to me since my son is now in a single-parent home.

In order to be a parent and provide stability, you need to have a schedule and rules. Children sometimes whine about rules and structure, but the reality is that they need it.

Structure, and a supportive environment that helps maintain that structure, are necessary for children to thrive.

Your child doesn’t understand why bedtime is important, or why you need to limit their screentime. You might feel mean for sending them to bed or making them eat dinner with you at the table, but the reality is that’s what it takes to be a parent.

My son chafes at the idea of going to bed between 9:00 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. But if he doesn’t get to bed during those times, he turns into a monster when it’s time to get up between 6:30 a.m. and 7:00 a.m.

The structure and stability in my son’s life means he knows when it’s time to do homework, when he can hang out with his actual friends, and when it’s time to go to bed. He feels safe, and he has a sense of what’s next.

These are important things for children, and the research bears it out. That’s why, when I travel for business, I rely on my parents to keep some amount of structure in my son’s life.

The stability he experiences, whether I’m here or not (I’m mostly here, though), is good for him.

Your child isn’t your confidante.

When I took a court-mandated parenting class as part of the conditions of my divorce, one of the concepts they pressed home was this: your child isn’t your confidante.

We like to think that by telling our children how we really feel, we’re being honest and straightforward.

The reality, though, is that your kid isn’t emotionally prepared for you to hear about your problems with your parents. They aren’t ready to hear your deepest, darkest secrets.

If you’re looking for a buddy, look for an adult.

I have friends my own age that I can talk to about relationships issues, how much I dislike one of my son’s teachers, and the challenges associated living where I live. My son doesn’t need to be burdened with that shit.

The good news is that you can be open and invite your child’s confidence without trying to be their friend.

Establish a pattern early on of listening and engaging with your child. Be open and honest in an age-appropriate manner when they ask tough questions.

When my son complains about our least-favorite teacher, I empathize with him, but I don’t bad-mouth the teacher. “I know it’s hard sometimes. I had teachers that I didn’t get along with, too. But you still need to do your work and do a good job. You’re smart enough to get through this.”

What I’d really like to say is, “I know your teacher is being an asshat and that’s a dumb assignment. Let’s skip it and go do something fun instead.”

My son and I have talked about thorny issues, from politics to his friends to *gulp* sex. He knows I don’t shy away from the tough subjects, and I take him seriously. He knows I’ll be honest and straightforward, even if I won’t give him details I don’t think he’s ready for.

Invite your child’s confidence, but do it from a place of teaching and guidance, not from a place of peer-like friendship.

Your child needs you to be a parent. You can help and guide them in a way that is more likely to result in long-term success for life. But not if you’re more concerned about being your child’s best buddy.

You can still be “cool” and be a parent.

While your goal shouldn’t focus on being cool, you can still be an awesome person, and be a parent.

My son and I love a lot of the same geeky things. His friends know that when they come over here, I’ll make popcorn and play Rock Band with them if they invite. They also know that if they have a Batman question, I’ll have the answer.

While I still make them go to bed when they sleep over, and I won’t let them just roam the mall aimlessly for hours upon hours, they do think I’m cool — at least for now.

If you can provide a safe and comfortable environment for your children and their friends, and you make a little effort to get to know them, you’ll be considered cool, even during times you have to be a parent and say no.

Walking that line can be challenging, and you might have to experiment a bit to find it. But the important thing is that you be a parent by setting expectations for your child, teaching life lessons, and enforcing consequences.

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Parenting is one of the hardest jobs around. It’s not any easier with your ex. But your kids will be better off if you can suck it up and coparent effectively.

Parenting is a hard gig.

It’s even harder when you do it with your ex.

Even when you get along with your ex, it can be challenging to coparent successfully.

No matter how you feel, though, it’s vital that you work on your coparenting game so your children are better equipped to deal with the divorce and with life going forward.

1. Commit to coparenting.

The very first thing you both need to do is commit to coparenting. Coparenting successfully requires solid commitment from everyone involved.

Talk about how you plan to coparent in the best interest of your child. Then both of you commit to the process. Even if you need a mediator to help you hammer out a plan, the important thing is that you are both committed to making this work.

2. Create consistent rules.

One of the most important things for children is consistency. It’s true when kids live with both parents, and it’s especially true when children split their time between households.

Come up with rules that kids follow, regardless of where they are. This might include homework time, music practice, rules for electronics use, and bed time.

While there is wiggle room for special circumstances, it’s important to be consistent. My son knows that when he goes to stay with dad, he’s going to do schoolwork and go to bed at the same time. I know he might actually get a little more time to play video games when he’s with his dad, but that’s something we’ve agreed on.

3. Don’t trash talk your ex.

Avoid putting your issues with your ex on your child. It’s not fair to use your child as a pawn in games with your ex. You don’t want to be the toxic person in this scenario.

If your child complains about your ex, don’t immediately jump in and agree. Remain as neutral as possible. Unless there is actual abuse involved, most kids just need to let off steam. You can say, “I’m sorry you’re frustrated with the situation, but they are trying their best.”

I’m pretty sure my son sometimes complains about me to my ex. When he does, my ex moves on quickly, and then lets me know about potential issues. I don’t confront my son when he’s complained about me. Honestly, I want him to share these things. Then I know what I might need to improve on.

I do the same for my ex.

Kids complain about their parents. Don’t egg them on when it involves the ex. Not only do you risk a deterioration in that relationship, but you might be surprised to realize that trash talking your ex can encourage your child to resent you as well.

4. Maintain communication.

One of the reasons my ex and I coparent successfully is that we communicate regularly. We exchange texts several times a week. We talk at least twice a month. In fact, we sometimes just talk as friends and don’t talk about our son.

You might not have that level of friendship with your ex.

Even if all you do is communicate about the kids, that’s important. Be sure to immediately share when things change that will impact the plan. Whether it’s a trip to the emergency room or a problem at school, or just an update on positive progress, it’s important to communicate.

Don’t rely on your child to carry messages. You need keep the lines open so you don’t get garbled messages. When my son wants to make a major purchase (more than $50), or if he wants to change up his after-school schedule, I text my ex and we schedule a time to discuss the merits.

This way, our son can’t play us off each other. We present a united front because we communicate. My son is used to hearing, “Just wait. I need to talk to your dad about that.”

5. Confirm what your child says with the ex.

Yeah, this goes with regular communication. But it bears repeating. Get the story from your ex. If your child says your ex said they could do something, double check.

It’s a normal part of growing up for children to press boundaries and try to get away with stuff. You did it with your parents, and your kids will try it with you. Even if you aren’t divorced, there’s a good chance you’ll hear “But mom said I could…” or “Dad lets me…”

Before you say yes to something your child claims your ex is on board with, connect directly with your ex to verify.

6. Make time to keep it simple and boring.

Don’t always be trying to have fun — especially if you’re the less-seen parent. My ex is pretty good about stuff. When my son stays with him, they do “regular” things and not just fun stuff.

Try to avoid being the “fun” parent all the time. Both parents need to be a mixture of fun and “boring.”

Sometimes what your kids need is an ordinary day in with you. There’s nothing wrong with that. You need to be balanced in your approach to parenting.

Because my ex lives on the other side of the country, my son talks to him frequently using Facetime and he stays for between one week and three weeks at a time. I often stay part of that time, too (at my ex’s invitation), and that means there is a sense of normalcy and family, even if it’s not what we consider a “traditional” family.

7. Recognize your ex’s good qualities.

Don’t forget to talk about your ex’s good qualities with your child. It’s about more than just refraining from complaining about your ex. You should also point out the good things s/he does.

I regularly direct my son to my ex if he has a question about something that my ex is good at. I also make it a point to say nice things about him when I can, and get excited when it’s time for them to talk.

I think it makes sense to encourage my son to maintain a good relationship with his dad. If you want to coparent successfully, you need to make sure that you aren’t putting wedges between your children and your ex.

8. Don’t get upset if your child requests your ex.

Sometimes my son specifically asks if he can talk through an issue with his dad, rather than talk about it with me. I know that my ex is better equipped to handle some situations than I am. I don’t get upset about it.

It’s true that sometimes we feel hurt if a child wants to talk to someone else or prefers someone else’s help on a project. However, the reality is that we all have strengths and weaknesses. There are some things that my son prefers to do with me, and some he prefers to do with his dad. There’s nothing wrong with that.

Realize that your child has needs that your ex might be better at fulfilling. That in no way reduces your importance to your child. To coparent successfully, you need to bury jealousy and work together to ensure your child has the best possible outcome.

9. Know that it will be difficult.

Buckle up. It’s not easy to coparent successfully. It’s a little easier for me because my ex and I are on good terms and genuinely care about each other still.

Even then, it’s still challenging sometimes. There are times I don’t want to discuss things with him. It would be easier for me to just make all the decisions about our son without input from my ex.

However, that’s not fair to him or to our son.

It can be hard to bury feelings and put on a civil facade, especially if you had a hard breakup. However, it needs to be done. Think about the welfare of your child.

If you need to get mediation and/or counseling, do it. In some cases, you can benefit from family therapy, even if you aren’t a “traditional” family anymore.

Parenting is rarely easy, and doing it with your ex adds another layer of complexity. However, if you are both committed, you should be able to make it work.

Do you have to coparent with your ex? What challenges do you face? Even if you have a partner, do you run into parenting problems? How do you resolve them. Join us on the #Adulting community on Facebook and share your stories.

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Disagreeing with your parents is just fine. Do it in a way that doesn’t make them see you as a perpetual child.

When you’re raising a child, arguments seem pointless.

Why should anyone have to suffer through a squabble about why their 14-year-old can’t stay out until 2 a.m.?

When you spend a good decade or so having the kinds of disagreements that make you want to scream, it’s easy to develop a dismissive attitude toward your child’s opinions.

But as parents age and children become adults, the lines start to blur.

All of a sudden, the child starts to make sense – maybe even a little more sense than the parent is comfortable with. How should that transition be handled?

Most of these conversations revolve around how the parent in question can accept their child as a bona fide adult.

But what about from the other perspective? The adult child’s role in a disagreement is just as important – and just as tricky to navigate.

If you’re ready to start parsing parental conflicts in a more effective way, read ahead for some tips on how to make it happen.

Stay calm.

There’s a reason why “Keep calm and carry on” has become a viral phrase in the last few years. Staying calm is a vital tool – one that precious few people use correctly.

It won’t help your case to yell or get emotional, even if you’re in the right. Staying calm will help you to present clear, focused arguments and avoid getting sidetracked.

Try to be the bigger person. Even if your parents are calling you names, trying to avoid the conversation or refusing to acknowledge your point of view. It doesn’t help to get worked up. If anything, it will just feed into the idea that you’re not mature enough.

When disagreeing with your parents, you need to stay on the higher ground.

Avoid all or nothing statements.

Avoid all or nothing phrases like “you always” or “you never” when arguing. Accusing your mom or dad of doing something 100% of the time is a sure-fire way to put them on the defensive.

Instead, bring up specific examples and use words like “sometimes” or “occasionally.”

When you use “all or nothing” thinking, you cut yourself off from seeing their point of view. You turn your parents into caricatures of themselves instead of well-rounded people who make mistakes.

This approach is important in any argument, but especially during a time where both parties are trying to develop a more nuanced view of the other.

Take a step back if you find yourself doing this when disagreeing with your parents. An argument can quickly turn from a productive disagreement to a petty squabble when one side or the other goes down the rabbit hole of dramatic statements and accusatory language.

Stay focused.

Family matters come with decades of baggage that hasn’t been fully unpacked. It’s easy to get sidetracked during a heated argument and think about every perceived injustice you’ve ever suffered.

Stay focused on what you’re talking about. If you’re complaining about how they forgot to ask about your recent work promotion, don’t bring up the time in seventh grade when they missed your school play.

Part of the difficulty of disagreeing with your parents is convincing them to see you as a fellow adult instead of a kid. If you bring up something from your childhood, accomplishing that is going to be very difficult.

It’s frustrating to stay on track when you feel like you have more ammo in your bag, but piling on doesn’t validate an argument. It’s only makes the other person more defensive and less sympathetic to what you’re saying.

Pick your battles.

You can’t disagree on everything if you want a happy relationship with your parents. Even though it might hurt your jaw to grit those teeth, you’ll be happier in the long run if you let some things go.

For example, if your parents eat red meat every day and you’re a staunch vegetarian, don’t bring up the horrors of factory farming when you’re visiting for Christmas. No one wants to be insulted in their own house, and it’s probably not a stand worth taking.

If they criticize or make fun of your vegetarianism, then it’s time to speak up. In general, try to notice the difference between defending your sovereignty as an adult and looking for an excuse to pick a fight.

Create and enforce boundaries.

Remember when you were a teenager and how fiercely you protected your bedroom? No one could go in without your consent. Doing so was a violation of privacy.

That’s how your mind should be. No one can make you upset or force you into a discussion without you agreeing to it. For example, if you don’t want your parents to criticize your parenting skills, shut that topic down as soon as it comes up.

Setting those mental and emotional boundaries will make it easier to stop questions from turning into arguments.

If your mom disagrees with your decision not to breastfeed your child, simply say, “This is my decision, and I’m not going to discuss it with you further.”

If she tries to keep poking you, repeat that sentence. Eventually, she’ll get the message. Parents generally mean well, but they won’t know they’ve stepped over a line unless that line is clearly and consistently drawn.

This strategy is a larger representation of how to disagree with your parents in general. Make it a habit to be respectful of yourself and your parent’s opinions, and things will get easier.

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It’s hard to need to take care of your parents. But sometimes it’s necessary.

There comes a time in our lives when suddenly we must adult for our adults. Our roles switch. The caregivers need the caregiving.

Adulting for your parents isn’t easy. It’s an uncomfortable conversation to broach with Mom and Dad. However, the consequences of avoiding it are even more uncomfortable. While it might be difficult to talk about your parents’ future with them, it’s better to make sure they and their assets get the care they need.

Below are five topics to cover with Mom and Dad to make sure that conversation is as effective as it is difficult.

Health and assistance.

With the ongoing rise of healthcare costs and the unsure future of the Affordable Care Act, families must start planning for healthcare and healthcare expenses as soon as possible. Talk with your parents about their current health and the history of health and disease in your family.

What are they dealing with now? What might they deal with in the future? This information will help the family make educated decisions on how to manage their money and investments to provide the healthcare they need.

Precautionary measures that include a healthy diet, regular doctor checkups, and regular exercise may help minimize long-term costs and the risks of some diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and diabetes. Despite all the precautionary measures families can take, parents may need long-term care.

Mom and Dad may need someone to care for them on a regular basis. Children may want to provide that care, but it can be challenging and stressful. Children often aren’t equipped with the knowledge and physical stamina required to properly care for our older adults. Adulting for your parents can be very hard and require specialized training.

Long-term care is expensive, though. Consider long-term care insurance. Long-term care insurance covers items not covered by standard health insurance. Health insurance provides coverage for illnesses and diseases. Long-term care insurance covers services that provide mom and dad with daily living assistance. This could include help with eating, bathing, help in the bathroom, and help getting in and out of bed.

Housing.

Mom and Dad may get to a point when living in their current home is challenging or even dangerous for them. Walking up long and steep flights of steps may hard. Reaching high cabinets and shelves may be impossible.

If this happens, it may be appropriate for them to move into their children’s house. You can be involved with adulting for your parents more easily in this situation.

This isn’t always the best solution for either party, though. The children and grandchildren may be too busy or unable to help care for mom and dad. Mom and dad may rather be around their own friends or, believe it or not, people their own age.

Retirement villages for those 55 and up are very popular. These are ideal neighborhoods to keep Mom and Dad active and around a community of people with whom they can spend time and relate.

Social interaction is especially crucial as we age. It helps fight problems such as dementia and depression. Staying active in local and broader communities helps maintain a sense of purpose. Encourage parents to join clubs and organizations and volunteer for causes about which they’re passionate.

As Mom and Dad need more attention, nursing facilities may become necessary. Families must plan for such expenses; the average nursing home costs about $80,000 annually for a semi-private room.

Have the conversation when mom and dad can still engage so you understand their wishes and concerns. Assess what the whole family can handle and manage mom and dad’s investments and assets accordingly.

Wills, trusts, and estate planning.

Life for children is stressful enough when parents are incapacitated or pass away. Some of that stress can be alleviated with proper planning.

If Mom and Dad haven’t already done so, they should get their will in order. This is an appropriate time to draft living wills and burial requests.

Include trust and estate planning to make sure what they leave behind is used in the manner they wish. These options give mom and dad peace of mind and takes weight off children’s shoulders. It also helps avoid family conflict that can happen when someone passes away.

Once all their legal documents are organized, a great tool is Docubank. DocuBank electronically stores all official and legal documents, including healthcare directives and emergency medical information, on a credit card-like card to keep these documents accessible from anywhere in the world at any time of day.

Managing investments.

It’s unfortunate, but true: getting older is expensive. Because savings rates are low due to low interest rates, it’s important that mom and dad be appropriately invested. Not only must they keep up with the rate of inflation and fight small Social Security increases, they must keep up with the increasing costs of aging.

The challenge is to not assume too much risk or wipe out savings and retirement investments for when they need it.

Most children aren’t equipped for such a conversation or responsibility. Therefore, it’s advisable to use a professional. Just any professional won’t do. Seek the help of a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) who is also Investment Advisory Registered (IAR).

An investment professional with a CFP designation has completed significant education and testing to use the CFP designation. An IAR designation means investment professional has taken additional testing and has a fiduciary responsibility to their clients.

Fiduciary responsibility means an investment professional must, and is held accountable to, make investment decisions based on their client’s best interests. This means under no circumstances is the investment professional allowed to sell mom and dad investments that are in the investment professional’s best interest and not mom and dad’s.

Adulting for adult children.

Lastly, it’s important for Mom and Dad to stop financially supporting adult children when it becomes prohibitive to Mom and Dad’s interests.

Everyone has that one cousin, some of us have that one sibling, who’s just never got their life in order. They hop from job to job and place to place. Their only constant is Mom and Dad and Mom and Dad’s money.

Mom and Dad have done enough. It’s time for them and you to focus on them. That means it’s time for some adult children, whether they’re ready or not, to start adulting. You’ll be adulting for your parents soon enough. Time to start adulting for yourself.

While these may be difficult topics to discuss with aging parents, they’re much easier conversations to have when mom and dad can be a part of them. The purpose is to give mom and dad the dignity they deserve. Doing so is a lot easier when you know what they want.

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How well do you resolve differences in your relationship? Talaat and Tai McNeely share their story of conflict and resolution and offer great relationship advice about communication.

Once in a while, we present Adulting.tv LIVE! Subscribe on YouTube to hear about future events, and share your questions about or suggestions for our next discussions!

Harlan L. Landes and Miranda Marquit welcome Tai and Talaat McNeely. The guests open up about their struggle with communication about finances early in their relationship, and how they overcame obstacles as a couple. Their story is inspiring, and the guests are candid in their sharing of their mistakes as well as the lessons they’ve learned.

Communication is the most important piece of any relationship, and in this episode, our guests share the tools that have helped them — and others they’ve coached — survive and thrive within a relationship.

This episode is essential watching for anyone in a relationship, and the tools and tips are effective for resolving more than differences about just money.

Talaat and Tai McNeely, “America’s #1 Money Couple,” are financial educators that are on a mission to get individuals and couples on the same page financially, and to experience the joys of financial freedom. They are co-authors of Money Talks: The Ultimate Couple’s Guide To Communicating About Money. They are also the hosts of the top rated podcast, The His and Her Money Show. Talaat and Tai McNeely (His and Her Money) have been featured in numerous publications such as T.D. Jakes Show, FoxNews.com, MSN.com, Essence, and Business Insider.

Watch the video above or listen to just the audio by using the player below.

Hosted byHarlan Landes and Miranda Marquit
Produced byadulting.tv
Edited and mixed bySteven Flato
Music bybensound.com

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Can’t we all just get along? Unfortunately, with family, this isn’t always what happens. Here’s what you need to know about managing conflicts with family.

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The holiday season just ended. How did you survive?

Many families dread the holidays because of family disagreements. These past holidays might have been especially trying, thanks to the election.

And, even though you’ve navigated the holidays, there’s a good chance you still need to see family members at a major gathering. Sunday dinner? Grandma’s 80th birthday party? A family reunion in the summer?

At some point you’re going to have more conflicts with family. This episode will help you get through it.

Concepts

  • How emotion and identity impact the way we talk about difficult subjects.
  • The difficulty of seeing family when you spend more time with friends who might agree with you more.
  • Concerns about how “being right” and a “team” mentality can make it hard to talk about thorny issues.
  • Tips for setting the stage for civil and polite conversation rather than conflicts with family.
  • Ideas for defusing a difficult “conflicts with family” situation when it arises.
  • The importance of avoiding big discussions on social media.
  • The reality of our interconnected world and how it contributes to conflicts with family.

Listen to our “do nows” for ideas on what you can do to take action to avoid or help defuse conflicts with family. We also answer a listener question about religious tensions in family settings.

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Resources

Don’t let politics spoil your family holiday
Families dread holidays after election
Hosted byHarlan Landes and Miranda Marquit
Produced byadulting.tv
Edited and mixed bySteve Stewart
Music bybensound.com

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Once you start learning to adult, holidays can be a time of stress. Here’s how to set healthy boundaries.

This episode originally aired on December 3, 2015.

Show Notes

Too often, the holidays turn into a time of stress as we try to live up to expectations from family and friends.

While it’s preferable to avoid a holiday showdown, sometimes it can’t be avoided. In this episode, we talk about how to figure out what matters this holiday season, as well as how to set boundaries.

How much is too much this holiday season? And can you draw the line without it turning into a holiday showdown? Our Do Nows help you learn how to set healthy boundaries, as well as identify the biggest stressors that could be dragging you down.

Concepts

  • Reasons the holidays can be very stressful.
  • What are some of things we do to satisfy others during the holidays?
  • What things are likely to result in a holiday showdown?
  • How to prioritize holiday gatherings.
  • Tips for setting healthy boundaries — and respecting others’ boundaries.
  • Handling gifts and exchanges.

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Resources

ReutersUnderstanding and dealing with family relationships during the holiday season
PsychCentralTips for building and preserving better boundaries

Transcript

MIRANDA-Sometimes the holidays are more stressful than maybe they should be. In this episode, we’ll take a look at some strategies you can employ to reduce your holiday stress.

HARLAN – Intro

HARLAN – Welcome to Adulting. I’m Harlan Landes, and I’m here with Miranda Marquit, as usual. How are you doing Miranda?

Miranda – I’m doing well, how are you today Harlan?

HARLAN- I am fantastic. So! Today we’re talking about satisfying your relatives during the holidays. And what it takes to survive the holiday season as an adult. So, is this a study from Stanford University?

Miranda- It isn’t exactly a study so much as it is something the assistant director of Stanford’s faculty and staff help center talks about. She talks about some of the pressures that the holidays cause, and the research shows make the holidays difficult for people – and family relationships – which is all of us, right? We all have family relationships, and one of the things that she points out is that people want to belong and feel connected during the holidays. This desire can be so strong that we overextend ourselves emotionally, physically, and financially. And then she goes on to say that examples of this include spending money to travel to be with family and loved ones even though you’re finances are limited. She talks about buying gifts that you can’t afford, attending social family functions because we feel like we HAVE to or because we feel like we should, and then also on our end, maybe preparing an elaborate perfect meal or celebration. So we put all the stress on ourselves to provide the perfect atmosphere for celebration with somebody else. So it’s this thin line, and she talks about how all of these pressures can combine to create a holiday season that isn’t quite as cheerful as we’d like it to be.

HARLAN-we just want to enjoy this time with our families and friends and loved ones, so does this pressure need to be there? Are we putting too much pressure on ourselves? Is there any way that we can avoid this?

Miranda-That’s hard. It’s hard to get beyond that. I know that what’s interesting is, a lot of the times these holidays are tied up in faith traditions. As we get older, we may be stepping away from our faith traditions of our youth. And that is something that I am dealing with right now is stepping away from the faith traditions of my youth, and how do I go about that — the nice thing about celebrating Christmas is that in a lot of ways it’s not about Christmas. It’s not about Jesus for a lot of people, and so it’s more a wider cultural phenomenon. There is that element of it being a little bit easier from that standpoint, but at the same time, there are still some family expectations and some family things that are talked about in my faith tradition during the Christmas season. I’m navigating that right now trying to figure out, how do I back slowly away from my faith tradition while still enjoying that family holiday spirit. Is that something that you have to deal with as well?

HARLAN- No, it’s been a little bit different for me. First of all, I am Jewish, and religion wasn’t always a big part of my household, except to the extent that I wanted to make it something that I was pursuing on my own, if not actively in my house with my family. My brother and I grew up celebrating Chanukah, which unlike Christmas, is not a major holiday for the Jewish religion in the way that Christmas is perhaps is for the Christian religion. However, because it happens around the same time as Christmas, more attention is given to this holiday, and in the tradition of gift giving. It is something that my parents did want to make as part of our experience growing up. At the same time we also recognized that while we were celebrating Chanukah, the rest of our environment was celebrating Christmas, but, so, I don’t think we had a Christmas tree, but we certainly did understand that Christmas was more than just a religious holiday in the United States. That was something that was kind of out there and is secular, and people are participating, and my parents were certainly interested in having us as children be a part of the society that was around us. So we participated in some Christmas type things like giving gifts for Christmas, if not going all out. It was a line that I was always on. I know that my parents like telling this story: They brought me to the mall doing some holiday shopping, and of course there was a Santa Claus dressed up in the mall, and he came up to me and said, “Merry Christmas” and I said, ‘Happy Chanukah’ in response to him and he was taken aback, didn’t know what to say, and of course I lived in an area at the time that did not have as much representation in diversity that some of the places that I’ve lived later on in life. So it was kind of a funny experience for some kid to say something to Santa that he didn’t expect. It’s all about family. I mean, my mother is probably more the side of Wiccan even, celebrating nature, celebrating the earth, instead of making something more Judeo-Christian out of the season.

Miranda-Right, and that’s interesting as well, this idea of, well maybe I want to incorporate more of the wiccan or pagan or solstice related activities into my situation while the rest of my family has no understanding of that sort of side of things. It’s an interesting line that you do have to walk. And then once again we have this whole, as mentioned in the Stanford article, we have this whole — not only do we have these traditional type expectations of us, but we feel like things have to be perfect for the holidays. We have to have perfect decorations; we have to have this perfect meal. We have to have this perfect party; we have to find the perfect gift for whoever we’re giving this gift to. Everything has to be perfect. And I think that’s one of the things that makes the holidays so challenging. So how can we get beyond that? How do we deal with this idea of perfection around the holidays?

HARLAN- We has to let go of this burden. This is a huge burden. And maybe it’s hard for me to understand because I never had to deal with it in this way, but there’s no reason that anything has to be perfect in our lives. We can just do our best to create the best environment for spending time with our family. And this idea that we have to live up to some expectation which I think probably comes more from the media than comes from anything else when it comes to the pressure to have a holiday set up in such a way that everything is pristine. I guess I just don’t get it. I mean, even the people I’ve been close to who have celebrated Christmas don’t feel this kind of pressure because there’s an understanding that we just have to be perfect, we just try to put together what we need in order for our family to feel comfortable and to feel the love that we have for each other. And certainly, that’s not going to come from some pristine demonstration or display. So I don’t know, so you tell me how to deal with something like that.

MIRANDA- I think it’s really difficult, and it’s nice that you come from an environment where you didn’t have to worry about that. But in the culture I was raised, there’s a lot to do with the image you’re projecting and the holidays have a lot to do with that. Part of that too is once you get to a certain point, is learning how to set boundaries during the holiday season, whether it’s, ‘do I have to go to one more family party?’ And that’s one of the hard things too; there is so much going on. And do I have to go to every family party? Do I have to do all these things? And I think that setting boundaries is one of the ways that you can step back and say, ‘yes, I love you, and I want to have this situation with you, and I want to celebrate the holidays with you,’ but at the same time, this might be too much. Because we have work, we have to worry about getting our stuff together and then do we need to go to all parties and get all these presents and take care of all this stuff. I think part of that is learning to set boundaries and try and figure out how to work with that.

HARLAN-Sure I think I probably benefitted in some way from having a smaller family. And I know a lot of people will, if they have seven siblings, as adults, they’ve got a lot of people to pay attention to when the holidays come around. That’s got to be difficult to juggle. And I understand that completely. And just having a plan, and saying, ‘Listen, I can’t see your family this year, but next year you can visit me, and I’ll visit someone else, and then the year after that …’ You just have to set up a plan that makes sense and explain to everybody that we have a lot of responsibilities, this is the way we’re gonna make it work, and it’s not gonna be what everybody wants, at any one time, but at the same time, everyone else is juggling the same responsibilities. So I think they are going to ‘get’ it.

MIRANDA- I think part of it too goes back to what we’ve talked about in the past, about that communication. And being up front about what you can and can and cannot do. Whether it’s saying ‘Let’s set up a gift exchange,’ that’s fine, but with my family this year I have four siblings. And one sibling has four children, another has three children, and then another will have two children by the time we get to Christmas. And so there’s a lot of children running around, there’s a lot of siblings to begin with, and finally this year, one of my siblings just sent a family group text that said, ‘This year are we going to just draw names out rather than trying to find gifts for everybody – let’s just do this one gift exchange where we just draw names out.’ And communicating and being up front and saying, ‘This is what I’d like to do,’ that can help. And we all said, ‘Hey, that’s a super fantastic idea. Let’s set up a gift exchange for the kids – where you draw a name out of a hat, and that’s the cousin you’re going to get a present for,’ and then the rest of us will draw a name out of a hat and that’s the adult person that we’ll get a person for. That way kind of limits the stress you’re under, but it’s just that simple thing where you give yourself permission to say, ‘let’s try something new, ‘ and then you communicate that.

HARLAN- So, in every episode that we’ve done so far, we’ve talked about communication. I think that’s the key to everything adult-related. When the stress of the holidays comes upon you, communication can be all the more difficult, and that’s where we get hooked up. Maybe there is something that we can do when we have this stress of the holidays to allow the communication to flow a lot easier, so we’re not having stress as being this communication filters, that’s changing the way we communicate with our loved ones at a time that our communication needs to be clear. There are some specific de-stressing things that we can do during the holidays to allow ourselves to be open to better communication. That’s probably one of the keys; we know that this is going to be a stressful time; we know that we have to communicate, so how do we communicate properly at a stressful time and the only way to do that is probably to deal with stress a lot better than we’re used to. There are two things we like to do. The first is getting a weekly massage, and that helps me destress and let go of some of the things that I’m holding on to. But that requires some time and depending on how you do it; it might require some money, so that isn’t for everybody. I think a daily meditation is something that — I’m getting to the point where I can do that on a more regular basis. Just following some guided meditation will help you relieve stress and allow the communication lines to open more freely. I’ve seen it happen in relationships. I know it works. So, all you have to do is look for some guided mediation online maybe just do 10 minutes a day, and that will help your stress level immensely. And maybe there is some holiday mediation that you can do that makes it appropriate for the season. You start it now you’ll probably stick with it on a more regular basis because you’ll just get so much benefit out of it, you’ll understand yourself a little bit more, and you’ll be able to communicate.

Miranda-And part of it too I think is that, we have these great technicological tools, that to a certain degree do allow us to disconnect a little bit, from the situation and while we’re always saying, ‘Oh we need to connect more, we need to be more personal’ no, sometimes when we’re very stressed out, and we’re frantric and we’re struggling we really need a little of that space, a little disconnection. I find that it is easier if I sit down if I can compose a text message and not send it immediately – never send things immediately, whether it’s email, text messaging or social media – never do it immediately, always stop and think about it. But I find that sometimes it’s easier for me to communicate through written word, because of who I am and how I operate, and my tendency toward introversion. Also because I’ve been solicalized both as a woman and in my particular culture to avoid conflict. So (laughs – that’s just the way it is) so sometimes it’s easier to express myself in a written manner. So if I can take 10 – 15 min to compose a text message that I feel comfortable with, and then I can think about it for a little bit, and then send it and have that sort of delay and have that space between me sending it and the person getting it, sometimes that’s easier than having to sit down with someone facte to face and having to hash out issues you are struggling with. If you can send a quick text and say “I’d really like to come to the Christmas party, but I can’t make it – love see you next time, or love you see you at Sunday dinner’ or whatever it is, if you can send that rather than sit there and see them face to face and trying to deal with this situation — sometimes the distance helps. And sometimes you do need that space.

HARLAN-For me, what I realized, that a lot of the stress that I get from – if I have to offer some bad news or if I have to say something that might get a reaction that I don’t like, the longer I wait, and the longer I let is stew, the more that stress just festers. When there’s something that you have to communicate — first of all, realize you’re probably over-estimating the fierceness of the response you’re going to get. You imagine the response will be totally out of control to this bad news, saying, “I can’t make it for the holidays” — I’m sure they’ll be disappointed if they wanted to see you, but at that same time, it’s not going to be as devastating to them as you probably think it is. They will get by, they will understand that you cannot make it to the Christmas party or whatever it happens to be – or the news could be a whole lot worse than that too, but they can get over – and if they’re rational (18.30) people they will react in a way that you can handle. But it’s this build up, that’s where all the stress comes from. So if you can avoid the build up by going out there taking a deep breath and preparing yourself addressing the issue, then it’s usually not as bad as letting it fester inside of your brain, what’s going to happen when I finally approach this person about this issue. One way to get rid of the holiday stress is to face what you feel are these communication challenges, deal with it, and then it’s over, and you can let go of the stress.

MIRANDA- I think that’s a really good point. A lot of the time we put this stuff on ourselves, and we expect too much of ourselves. And sometimes you need and say, Hey wait a minute, who’s putting this on me? And a lot of the time it is ourselves. Being able to step back, a lot of time, we’re not giving people enough credit; we’re not giving them enough credit to be understanding and kind.

HARLAN-Yeah, absolutely.

Miranda- So another thing to do while we’re thinking about giving other people credit is also remembered that maybe somebody else is having stress as well. And a lot of the time when we’re sitting here thinking about ourselves saying, ‘Oh my gosh, how am I going to handle this,’ we forget that maybe somebody else is in a stressful situation, so maybe we all need to be polite and understanding about other boundaries and also be understanding if they can’t do something you want them to do. We’re always talking about ‘make other people understand me,’ but sometimes we need to understand other people, especially during this time of year.

HARLAN- Yeah, sure, that’s a great point, and it’s all part of having an adult relationship — is listening and understanding what other people are going through. And if there’s an opportunity to help somebody deal with their stress it goes a long way of not only to help them to relieve some of their stress but you will come out of this feeling good about yourself and will help you perhaps relieve some of the pressure you’re feeling on yourself as well even though the result is you’re doing more because you’re helping somebody. The way I see it, doing something for someone else helps relieve the pressure off of you, and that’s just as important.

MIRANDA- For sure. So what are some of the ‘Do-Now’s that we can do as we move into that holiday season in high gear. What are some of the ‘do-now’s that our listeners can focus in on now?

HARLAN- well I think the first thing is to identify these biggest stressors. Figure out what it is that’s causing you to have anxiety or to be upset around the holidays, and it may be something simple like not being able to get the gift that you wanted to buy for someone. It might be just the whole feeling of trying to put together the perfect situation for a whole family, or it could be the fact that it’s the holiday season and you don’t have the people in your life that you want with you now. There are a lot of different ways to feel stressed around the holidays, so if you can outline them down on paper, you can start to address them and figure out a plan on how to handle each one individually. Breaking it down into smaller issues so you’re not overwhelmed by one huge thing, and just seeing what the things are that you can work on that will eventually lead to this idea of having a stress-free holiday season if it’s even possible.

Miranda- Yeah, I think that’s a good point — just identifying the deal breakers. There are somethings we can do just because we feel we need to do them for other people – that’s just the way it is – but figure out your deepest issues and the deal-breakers so that you can better step up to the other duties that you might have. And then another thing too is to practice enforcing boundaries. A lot of time you feel you’re not going to do this and then we turn around and do it anyway. I think part of it is practice on these small things, find a couple of small things to practice enforcing boundaries, get used to being assertive so that you’re prepared so that you’ll be ready to own that when the time comes.

HARLAN – Yeah, being able to say no is always a great skill to have, and it’s hard, especially for people-pleasers. I’m a people-pleaser, Miranda you probably are too, so it’s very hard for us to say no sometimes but yes, you have to say no. You have to put some limits around what you’re willing to do because if you don’t, then people will see that you’re the one who is always willing to do things, so you will have more responsibilities kind of, loaded on to you, until you properly give people an understanding of what your limits are. And they might change over time, it’s not like you did something one year that means you have to it again, or because you’re unable to do something one year that you can’t do it the next year. Everything is flexible, nothing is permanent, but you have to able to communicate what you’re willing to do and what you’re not willing to do so that you can live a healthy life yourself. That’s the most important thing.

Miranda-That’s a good point. You do need to take care of yourself because then you won’t be able to take of anyone else if you end up in a breakdown situation. Now we have a listener question: What do you if your family members want to know why you’re skipping out on something? So what do you do? If you say No I can’t make it, and the real reason is you’re too stressed, or you don’t want to go, or there’s something else you’d rather be doing, what do you say?

HARLAN- (laughs) Well, there are two different paths to take here. You could be totally honest, and tell them whatever the reason happens to be. Or you can say, listen the timings bad, and we have some other thing that we have to take care of. You can make up an excuse. I think the approach – I’m all for honestly as much as possible — but we’ve got to understand that people have feelings that are in play, and you don’t want to burn any bridges with relationships so sometimes you do have to tiptoe on issues or be careful with the way you frame something without outright lying, because that’s never good. You WILL get caught. You don’t want to say anything that is totally untrue – such that if you get caught – you will burn those bridges. You can’t say, I can’t go out with you tomorrow night because I have to stay home — and then if they run into you the next night and you’re out with some other friends, you’ll have some explaining to do! You don’t want to lie, but you want to be sensitive to the way people need to hear whatever it is that you’re saying. Having the core of honesty there is important. You might just have to blanket that in some way that it’s not going to hurt somebody’s feelings if they don’t understand the position that you’re coming from. And nothing you say will help them understand that position.

Miranda-I think too to a certain degree, my first instinct is to say, ‘hey it’s none of your damn business, ‘ but at the same time like you said — they want to know, what’s more important than me: And to a certain extent sometimes you have to have to tiptoe around it. One of the important things I do is say, you know it’s just not working out right now or ‘I’ve got a lot going on’ and ‘what if we get together sometime after the holidays’ Sometimes it’s more about offering an alternative to letting them know that you care and you do want to hang out with them and do wish you could be there. Sometimes you just have to have an alternative for yourself – I’m sorry I really can’t do it right now, but what if we make a plan to do something after this time is over.

HARLAN-Yeah, I think that’s a great idea, having an alternative ready so that they still feel that you’re making them a priority while not giving them exactly what they want at any particular time.

MIRANDA-Right.

HARLAN- All right, on that note, I think we’re good for this episode and join us next week and join us on audulting.tv to take a look at what we’ve discussed today and find additional resources that might come in handy as you’re trying to relieve holiday stress and survive.

Hosted byHarlan Landes and Miranda Marquit
Produced byadulting.tv
Edited and mixed byHarlan Landes
Music bybensound.com

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