How To Deal With Not Going Home For The Holidays For The First Time


The holiday season can be one of the best times of year. Bright lights illuminate cities, holiday-themed pajamas become a daily uniform, and loved ones gather to celebrate their respective holidays and the excitement of a new year. But this time of year can bring out stress and tension within families, too. And it can be especially difficult to navigate familial relationships when you’re not going home for the holidays for the first time.

Dr. Gary Brown, a couples therapist in Los Angeles, says that it’s best to have the discussion with your family about not coming home either in person or over video chat. “Initiate the conversation just by saying, ‘Listen, this is going to be tough to talk about … but, I'm not going to be coming home for this holiday,” Dr. Brown tells Bustle. You should make it clear that you understand this may be upsetting to your family members, and you want to listen to their thoughts, he says.

If you are immediately met with negative backlash from your family, Dr. Brown says it’s important to take a few deep breaths and remain as calm as you can. It’s not a matter of who’s right or wrong in the situation; rather, it’s about making the decision that’s best for you at the time. And, just as your feelings about why you can’t come home for the holidays are valid, so are your family's concerns. If you're looking for advice on how to best approach family turbulence, here's a breakdown of four different situations that may lead you to not come home for the holidays and how to effectively work through them.

You Want To Avoid A Toxic Family Member

If you’re currently going through a rough patch with one of your family members, you may not want to spend the holidays around that person. “You’re entitled to set a healthy boundary if someone around you is consistently toxic, and particularly if they direct their toxicity at you,” Dr. Brown says. But, that doesn’t mean it’s easy to describe your perspective to the rest of your family.

The first thing you can do is explain to your relatives what’s been going on with the toxic family member. You can share as many or as little details as you wish, but be sure to mention that being with this person makes you feel like you’re setting yourself up for mistreatment, Dr. Brown says.

From there, you may want to arrange a time to see your family when you know the person won’t be there.

While it would be ideal if you and your toxic family member agreed on a “ceasefire” of sorts, it may not always be a possibility. You don’t want to “put yourself in a situation when you know you're going to be abused,” Dr. Brown says. Your emotional and physical health comes first.

You’re Celebrating With Your Partner’s Family


This can be a sticky situation. On one hand, you’re excited that your partner invited you home for the holidays, and you’re at a great place in your relationship. On the other, you feel bad that you’re not celebrating with your own family, and you're worried you'll face backlash from your relatives.

“This may be an ideal situation to start exploring compromising,” Dr. Brown says. That could mean switching off between whose family you and your partner go to for the holidays each year. Or, you could figure out whose family values each holiday the most. If your family is big into Thanksgiving, for example, you and your partner can go to your family's for Thanksgiving and your partner’s for Christmas.

“There really are no perfect solutions,” Dr. Brown says, because you can’t be in two places at once. That being said, there certainly is room for compromise that will satisfy both families.

You Can’t Afford To Go Home

If you’re not in the best place financially, going home for the holidays may simply not be in the cards. However, as Dr. Brown says, it doesn’t have to be as black and white as that. You could first ask some of your family members to help cover the costs of traveling home. Sure, it can be difficult to admit that you need help, but family members are there to pick each other up when they need it.

And, if all else fails, you can always have a “FaceTime holiday.” It’s not ideal, but it’s a way to feel included in your family celebration if you can’t physically be there, Dr. Brown says.

You Have Work Obligations


Sometimes, you just can’t help it, and you get stuck working a shift on or around the holidays. When this happens, it may feel like you’re having a hard time finding a manageable work-life balance. But, it’s important to remember that work-life balance can be a long-term goal, and “it’s not going to be balanced all the time,” Dr. Brown says.

Depending on your profession, you may be able to find a way to swap shifts with someone. Another solution is to pick the holiday that is most important to you and request to have time off on that day. You may still have to work on other holidays, but at least you won’t have to go in on the one that’s most important to you and your family.

If there's no way around it, just remember that nothing is permanent. You may not have the balance you want now, but that doesn’t mean you won’t have it down the line.

Whether your situation falls into one of these categories, or there’s another reason why you can’t go home for the holidays, remember that generally there’s a way to compromise. As long as you choose an option that feels right for you and keep your family in the loop, that's the best you can do.