Together Time


Making the most of the holidays with family and friends

Laura Nicole Garbers has a master’s degree in counseling and has worked with a diverse range of clients with emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual health concerns. She promotes health through counseling as well as through creative therapies including
sensing, expression, and movement.

Dear Laura,
My daughters are already starting to stress me out about the holidays. My wife and I divorced two years ago, so money is tighter than usual, not to mention the slowdown in business due to the recession. I love the winter holidays with Christmas, family time and vacation, but I really can’t take the heavy commercialism. My daughters seem to want everything under the sun! How do you stop young kids from being drawn in by the ads, and how does a man really celebrate Christmas family time when he’s “just visiting” his kids?

Frank Z.

Dear Frank,
It sounds as if you have two issues on your plate: how to get kids focused on the true meaning of Christmas and how to be a dad when you only have a certain amount of visitation time. Both of your problems are concerns for many people, so if not feeling alone is a comfort, then that will make you feel better. As far as commercialism is concerned, it really has a way of seeping into the pores and taking over—if you let it. What may work with kids is being stern with them about the differences between needs and wants. Basic necessities are important and are related to clothing, food, shelter and supplies. I really don’t see anything wrong with giving necessities for Christmas or birthdays. Receiving clothes or books can be just as fulfilling as getting the latest video game or talking doll, but the emphasis is placed on what they need rather than what they want, or think they need. If a child doesn’t expect to get clothes whenever he or she wants them, then those become more giftable. Many children love the idea of a liberating shopping spree, but go ahead and make it a Christmas needs spree and avoid those extra wants. As for having dad time and feeling like a family … I really do feel for you. Every which way you turn it, it doesn’t seem to come out perfectly for split families, especially when kids are involved. You may always crave the family life you once imagined, but after you realize the limits and boundaries of a separation, there is a way to work with it. You will do best by focusing on the family time that you do have and the benefits of the situation how it is. And don’t forget to look forward. Seeing the light of hope on the horizon has a way of guiding us in the directions that usher us into more fulfilling lives.
Best wishes,

Hi, Laura,
I have always had trouble keeping friendships. Some good friends that I have known for a long time fall away because they are in romantic relationships, and some just grow distant for other reasons. How can I keep a friendship longlasting?

Dear L.S.,
Your question about friendships is a common one, and I think most people have run across this situation before. Many people are mystified or bothered when friendships change. Friends are needed by everyone, but the boundaries and tethers of those relationships are fluid and flexible. It’s wonderful that you have friends that you’ve known for a long time, but unlike some family relationships, friendships aren’t always as reliable or permanent. It may be that the dynamics between you and some of your friends have loosened due to life changes such as romance, which can take up time and energy. Or perhaps the appreciation of one another has lessened for some reason. Appreciating a person less doesn’t have to be a bad thing; it may simply be that you and this friend got more from each other at a different time or situation. However, it could also be that something very tangible, like bad behavior or a misunderstanding, has driven a wedge between you. Try to reflect on each of your unique friendships for what it is right now, and ask yourself what you are able to offer this person and what this person is able to offer you. This can either bind you closer or encourage you to branch out. Friendships are as concrete and as abstract as many other things in life. Sometimes a wave pools on the shore to be caught in a puddle that you can play in for a while, but eventually the pool sinks into the sand, and sometimes a wave doesn’t even cause a puddle to form. The coming together and letting go of friends is a natural dance and motion. Try to allow yourself to feel the waves and know when the pools are right for splashing … and when they’re just not there.
Best wishes,