Winter Holidays & the Remnants of Domestic Violence
The way you view a holiday will directly affect how you feel about it. This article will cover some ways to help make the holidays something to look forward to, and explore, why you may be experiencing holiday-related dread.
One of the most important things to understand about the holidays is that they do not cause abuse. Abusers cause abuse. The holidays may increase the tension in a household and cause abusive individuals to act out aggressively, but the holidays are not singlehandedly responsible.
Domestic Violence and the Holidays
Though studies are limited, they show that calls regarding domestic violence decrease around the holidays. But that doesn't mean abuse stops. There are no rules on when abusive acts occur. The holidays can bring into focus negative things such as financial burdens, family tensions, and substance addiction. These things can affect the possibility of abuse.
It is also possible for abusers to take an "on their best behavior" approach when family is present during the holidays. After all, most perpetrators of violence do not like to be depicted as an abuser.
Domestic violence may happen at any time and for any reason. The holidays themselves are not inherently bad, and that is something to keep in mind if you want to change your outlook on a holiday.
Co-Parenting and Red Flags to Look For
If you are currently co-parenting, the holidays may have an extra layer of stress on top of them. It may help to know some red flags to look for during the holidays while navigating family interaction, your children's needs, and communicating with the other parent. Here are a few red flags to keep in mind:
-Attempts at alienating you and your child/ren
An example of this may be them limiting the time you’re around your children either over the phone or in person. They may cancel events and plans last minute or be unreliable to contact.
-A lack of patience/understanding that leads to an explosion of emotions
The other parent may also be feeling the stress of the holiday. This can cause a sudden lack of patience or anger. They may become especially frustrated over something that normally might not bother them.
-Lies made with the attempt to mislead you or your child/ren
The other parent may be trying to win favor or discredit you by telling your children or family fabrications, such as ‘you don’t want to see them’.
-Pressing financial burden or control over you
The holidays can be an expensive time. If the other parent has a different financial situation they may attempt to ‘out-do’ your presents. Or they may insist you pay for most of the holiday expenses.
Though some red flags may seem minor, it's important to trust your gut instinct. Observe, but don't overanalyze. Take things one moment at a time, otherwise you may find yourself overwhelmed and unable to focus or enjoy moments with your family.
Holiday Dread and the Feelings that Come with It
Some people experience a great deal of negative emotions around the holidays. Though everyone experiences holiday stress differently, there are some common symptoms. Such as:
- Increased anxiety
- Difficulty controlling impulsive thoughts and actions
- Trouble sleeping
All of these feelings are normal. You are not alone.
Nor do you have to spend the holidays alone if you don't wish to. Many cities offer events during the holidays that you can take advantage of. Consider looking up events in your area such as festivals, religious events, or community dinners. It's never too late to ask for help if feelings get to be too consuming.
It's hard to reach out, but it can be rewarding too. You are a person with hopes, needs, and desires and that’s okay.
Hope for the Future: How to Change Your Outlook
Changing the way you view something is difficult, time consuming, and mentally taxing. However, long term it's worth it. It's okay to start new traditions, and to let go of ones you did before. Here are a few ways to start changing your outlook:
- Find a new tradition you’ve never done before and try it out.
- Talk with someone about feelings of holiday stress
- Change the format of the holidays. Get new decor, move where you used to put things.
- Have patience with yourself as you adjust to the changes
How can we help?
Regardless of the holidays, we will always have an advocate available.
24-hour hotline: 608-364-1083
24-hour textline: (608) 473-1225
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