“It’s a super-modern phenomenon that we’re so spread out, and being together during the holidays is a way of reconstructing our family ties,” says Dr. Scott Meit, chief psychologist for the Summa Health System in Akron.
Broaching this difficult subject with sensitivity while finding other ways to maintain those connections can help to minimize family conflict, says Meit. Here’s his advice:
DO approach the conversation with sincerity. “Many people may use economics as an excuse not to go,” says Meit. “If that’s not the truth, you may run into a problem when someone offers to send a $350 gas card.”
DO find other ways to stay in touch. “Technology has brought down a lot of the barriers [to long-distance communication],” says Meit. Make a phone call, send pictures or video or place online video calls using Skype.
DON’T feel the need to explain your decision. “Don’t get into trying to justify your position,” he says. “This just invites the other person to debate.” Instead, use communication techniques such as “fogging,” in which you seek ways to agree with the person rather than resisting them, and the “broken record,” in which you clearly and calmly keep restating your position. Meit illustrates: “Yes, you’re right, it is great when the whole family gets together at the holidays. But this year we’re staying home.”