Going home for the holidays can be particularly challenging for adult survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse (CSA). Going home can be a trip back to the very house where their abuse occurred. At best it is likely that at least one family member will mention the person who perpetrated the abuse. At worse that individual may be sitting at the table with them. Although this survival plan is crafted for adult survivors of CSA, it may be useful for anyone who’s family is toxic, unhealthy or simply dysfunctional.
- Be realistic: If the holidays have always been rough, upsetting, and painful; don’t try to convince yourself that this year will be different. Don’t expect the worse, just expect the usual. Realistic expectations will allow you to prepare more effectively.
- Stop trying to change them. While it may be true that many members of your family could benefit from extensive therapy, remember you can’t make them get it. In fact, the more we try to make people change the less likely they are to do so. Find that sweet spot: be true to yourself and don’t engage with, enable or encourage the worse in others.
- Manage how bad it will suck. You know what to expect – have a plan to manage it. If you know your mother will ask you when you’re going to forgive and forget – think about how you can prevent her from asking or practice how you want to respond. Plan and practice how you’ll respond to all usual B.S.
- Enlist Lifelines: Ask friends in advance to be available to help keep you stay sane. The harder the family time will be the more lifelines you should enlist.
- Plan breaks: Take the dog for a walk. Run to the store for a forgotten item. Take the kids to a playground or go visit some of your local childhood haunts. Plan more than you expect you’ll need.
- Leave early: Respect yourself and maintain your integrity. If it becomes too difficult, go home or go to a hotel. It can be helpful to plan for this too.
- Don’t go: Choosing to not expose yourself to this upsetting event is an option. Consider the consequences of both going and not. If you don’t go, plan for the backlash. Start new holiday traditions for yourself or Plan a binge race of your favorite Netflix show. Don’t want to be alone? Invite others to your holiday or volunteer at a homeless holiday feast event.
The holiday season can be a particularly challenging time for adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Being prepared and making intentional choices can help manage how difficult this year’s holiday season becomes. You can’t choose your family, but you can choose how, and if, you interact with them.