As I've become a more grown-up adult - as opposed to the time in my life when I was called an adult but felt like an imposter - I've realized that a big part of the holidays involves managing expectations.
Your own. Your family's. And other people's.
You become an event planner/social director/professional shopper/caterer/customer support person all wrapped up into one. It's a lot to ask of one person, honestly. Your people expect you to, even without realizing it, manage the food, the gifts, and the atmosphere. To ensure that everyone is festive and happy and the holidays are everything everyone hoped they would be.
The holidays aren't meant to combat all the problems of the rest of the year. It's not your job to try and make them.
If you are the parent of a transgender child, the holidays add an additional layer of stress and worry.
In addition to managing the expectations of your own family, you might find yourself trying to figure out how to manage the expectations of people who haven't seen your child since they came out. This involves a lot of conversations that need to happen ahead of time to determine how you and your family will navigate familiar holiday situations that suddenly appear very complicated.
Managing expectations can look like:
- Sending holiday cards. If your child has not socially transitioned, the holiday card might not be how you want to inform family and friends. If you usually add everyone's name, consider using only your last name, i.e., Merry Christmas from the Jones Family. You may send a holiday photo every year, and your child's appearance has drastically changed since last year. Consider skipping the picture altogether. Or, you may want to use the card to announce for you. If so, be prepared for a lot of questioning emails/phone calls/texts. This is a case where you will have to manage your expectations and prepare for what comes next.
- Holiday gatherings. If your child has begun a physical transition and hasn't seen the family since then, they might be anxious about how people will react. Consider sending a friendly email to give everyone a heads-up. "Since starting hormone therapy in March, Joe's voice has deepened, and he has begun to grow facial hair. You won't believe how excited he is about these developments. We are thrilled to see how happy he is, and can't wait for you to share in this joy with him." This alerts the family to the physical changes they should expect. It also gently reminds them of the correct name and pronouns they should use when seeing your child.
- Unsupportive family. In my post about setting boundaries during the holidays, I talked about knowing when to leave or stay home when visiting others. But what about the unsupportive family members expecting to come to your house? If you know that you have family members who are disrespectful and unsupportive or refuse to use your child's correct name and pronouns, don't let them into your home. Your home should be a safe space for your child. That means you have to manage the expectations of those who come through your doors. Either they get on board with supporting your child while in your house or stay home.
- Conflicting political views. Let's face it. Whenever two or more people gather together, there will be a difference in political opinions. However, there's a time and a place for political debates, and holiday gatherings are not one of them. Set clear expectations for what kind of conversations will and will not be tolerated in your house beforehand. This ensures your child won't be subjected to their favorite relative spewing hateful rhetoric. And you don't have to send anyone home for being thoughtless.
Manage what you can. Let go of the rest.
At the end of the day, the only person you can change is yourself. But you can set boundaries that help ensure a peaceful holiday season for you, your child, and your family and clear expectations for what you will and will not tolerate. Decide ahead of time how to manage situations that are causing anxiety or might cause complications later on. Breathe a little deeper, knowing this is one less area you have to worry about.
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