All in the family: Tips for family gatherings

Jay FitzOur Town Health

Family reunions are a time-honored summer tradition bringing generations together and renewing old friendships. While these gatherings are joyful times filled with happy nostalgia for some, other members of the family may find them stressful.

Patrick Jensen, MD, a board-certified psychologist with Peninsula, a division of Parkwest Medical Center, encourages discerning and acknowledging these feelings, then openly talking about them with friends and family.

Patrick Jensen MD

“There is good stress and bad stress, and even good stress, like the pressure and obligations that come with family plans, can take a toll on us,” Dr. Jensen says.

Take note of these reminders to make the most of time together, whether it’s an organized reunion, summer vacation with extended family, or just a picnic in the backyard.

  • Plan ahead. Discuss plans well in advance to avoid problems or confusion. Encourage family members to share ideas and avoid unrealistic expectations.
  • Be flexible. Don’t insist on the same location, date and time. People’s lives change and their schedules do, too. What’s most important is time together, no matter when or where that time may be.
  • Encourage appropriate expressions of feelings. Listen patiently to one another without interrupting. Maintain open lines of communication so everyone can be heard. Pay special attention to children, who may feel their voices are getting lost in the crowd.
  • Don’t forget to laugh. Focus on enjoying yourself and don’t be afraid to loosen up. Use humor to defuse stress.
  • Be realistic. Despite good intentions, remember that big events don’t always turn out as planned. Things can go wrong or people you hoped would participate may decide to not to show. Focus on the joy of the moment no matter the circumstances.
  • Say no if you need to. Maybe you’re the one who needs to be a no-show, and that’s okay. Saying no isn’t being rude. It’s taking care of your boundaries and taking care of your time so you can give your best to the people and events that matter to you the most.
When you need more than family and friends

While friends and family can provide strength and support, at times it may be helpful to turn to others outside your immediate circle. Support groups at Peninsula bring together people who have similar problems to encourage and strengthen one another.

Peninsula Lighthouse offers outpatient groups for people who have psychological, behavioral and/or alcohol and drug problems, and there are support groups for their loved ones, as well.

“The importance of mental health cannot be overstated,” Dr. Jensen says. “Mental health necessitates healthy relationships, including one’s relationship with one’s own self-image, with others and with God.”

For more information or assistance, call Peninsula at 865-970-9800 or visit here.

Information provided by Covenant Health.


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