Why Families Fight During the Holidays
Psychologist Reveals the Core Cause of Most Holiday Squabbles
How the Ghosts of Yesterday’s Neglect Poison Today’s Family Gatherings
Holiday dysfunction took a fatal turn this past Thanksgiving when a Florida man shot and killed four family members. According to the police sergeant in charge of the investigation, there had been “ongoing resentment” in the family. And while most holiday squabbles don’t turn deadly, Dr. Jeffrey Fine, Ph.D., says that such resentments are commonplace in American families, which often place a higher value on American Idol and celebrity gossip than on childrearing techniques.
“The dysfunction in most families in our society is a breeding ground for repressed hostility and rage left over from childhood,” says Dr. Fine, a psychologist with 30 years of experience. “Overworked and under-prepared parents think nothing of neglecting a child by abandoning it alone for hours and days. They ignore the cues and cries of the baby, and unknowingly affect their children in inappropriate and harmful ways.”
Saying that this deprivation brings about “hormonal” outbursts of repressed rage, he believes that most holiday gatherings are plagued by the ghosts of neglect, abuse and other ills. “Holidays bring families close together with too many unresolved unspoken resentments and differences,” says Dr. Fine, whose work as founder and director of the American Foundation for Conscious Parenting aims at preventing and resolving issues caused by childhood trauma. And while the past can not be undone, families can often diffuse old tensions before they arise.
Dr. Fine suggests deflating any unconscious negative feelings in other family members by opening a conversation with, “If I have offended or hurt any of you by anything I might have said or done, or not said or not done, I ask for your forgiveness on this holiday.”
A former student of the famed Joseph Chilton Pearce, and a member of the Association for Pre- and Perinatal Psychology and Health, Dr. Fine stresses that moms and dads can take proactive measures to ensure happy holidays for years to come. He suggests that new parents sleep with their babies and engage in baby-wearing instead of stroller use and cites breastfeeding, contact with nature, and simple low-tech creative play as ways to raise happier, healthier children.
His book, THE ART OF CONSCIOUS PARENTING: The Natural Way To Give Birth, Bond With, And Raise Healthy Children (which he wrote with his wife, Dalit Fine, M.S.) has been praised by child development experts worldwide.