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Ask Kari: Best of Holiday Edition

By December 20, 2021General
Ask Kari Issaquah Highlands

This is a “Best of” column with some of Kari’s favorite holiday-related advice. Note some Q&As were originally published before the COVID-19 pandemic. Happy Holidays!

Dear Kari,

I am planning my family holiday dinner, and I am concerned the number of people coming to my home is too much. My mother asked me to invite extended family members, including aunts, uncles, and cousins, but I only want to keep it to my immediate family. I volunteered to take over Christmas dinner for her this year, and she feels we must keep her tradition of inviting everyone we know. Now that we changed the location of the celebration, I feel we can limit the number of people, and those I don’t include will understand and make other plans. What do you think I should do?

–  Holiday Hostess

Dear Holiday Hostess,

It sounds like you are making new holiday traditions by moving the party while celebrating with close family members. I feel it is fine for a hostess to adjust the based on what feels right for them (time of the party, number of people invited, food served, etc.). You can probably match your wishes with your mother’s by asking her to name a few traditions and people she most wants to be part of the celebration. Gently remind your mom that having a smaller number of people may allow for a more intimate and genuine exchange on this special day.

– Kari

Dear Kari,

I am feeling terribly sad; this is the first holiday season since I moved my mother into a care facility due to her dementia. We won’t celebrate the holidays like we usually do. I feel both the loss of her recognizing me when I visit her and the loss of our family traditions. How can I make it through this time of the year without feeling depressed?

– Too Sad to Celebrate

Dear Too Sad to Celebrate,

I am sorry you are struggling during this transition for you and your family. It can be very challenging to have a parent diagnosed with dementia and decide that moving them into a more supportive setting is the best, safest plan for them. I recommend you reflect on one or two traditions you most want to continue and aim for the possibility of carrying them out this holiday season (like attending Zoom church together or baking a special family recipe).

As you move through these few traditions, share the value of the acts with yourself, your mother, and any other family members with you. Speaking about what we feel can sometimes help us move through change better rather than storing it up inside, which could lead to depression.

Although this season will be different in some ways (or even many ways), I remind you to take the time to speak to those around you who matter. Remind yourself and your family that you are grateful for small moments now, even if they are different from before. Best wishes to you.

– Kari

Dear Kari,

I need help with something that happened to me last holiday season. A neighborhood friend gave me a very special gift, but I had nothing to give back to her. She is a nice neighbor, but she blindsided me when she showed up a few days before Christmas with an expensive gift. I thanked her for her thoughtfulness, but I felt like a terrible person for not having something special for her. I don’t know what to do this Christmas; she is not someone I spend time with other than waving hello and making small talk when I see her. Do you think I should buy her a great gift just in case she does the same for me again this year?

– Confused Gift Receiver

Dear Confused Gift Receiver,

Although it can feel socially awkward, I believe it’s fine to receive a gift without giving one in return. Gifting should come from a desire to be thoughtful and kind, and to show people they matter. If your neighbor is someone who matters to you, buy her a small gift of your choice. If your relationship is one of proximity and it would feel forced to buy a gift, I would pass on getting her something. If she does buy you a gift again this year, I recommend you thank her and maybe invite her for a cup of coffee to check in with her, as your gift of conversation may be the perfect gesture for her instead.

– Kari

Kari O’Neill, MSW, LICSW, is a licensed independent clinical social worker and the owner of Issaquah Highlands Counseling Group.

This column is for entertainment purposes only. If you are in crisis and in need of support, please contact the Crisis Clinic at 866-427-4747.