Spending the holidays away from family

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Soo Moon and Clinical Counselor & Health Coach Renee Carlson stopped by the Fox 9 studio to talk about how to get through the holidays without family and how to support those who may be estranged from their families.

Moon's advice

Supporting those estranged from family:

Be respectful of decision that individual has made to separate themselves from family. Do not encourage reconciliation because you don't know the reason the individual has chosen to protect themselves from their family. The family could have been abusive, homophobic, transphobic, racist, etc and that individual has made the difficult decision to disconnect from their family for self protection.

In addition to the first tip, please do not ask for details on why an individual has chosen to distance themselves from family. This can be triggering for that individual.

If you feel comfortable, invite that individual to be part of your celebration with friends and family. Help that individual feel like they are part of a community.
For those who are estranged from family:

Surround yourself with your own "family" of friends that are welcoming and loving.

Create your own ritual for holidays. Some people choose to go on trips, volunteer at shelters, have movie marathon with friends, make cookies for neighbors, etc. Giving back to community can help increase feeling connected to others during holiday.

Be mindful of doing self-care. That could be journaling, baking, taking baths, reading a good novel, spending time with your pets, exercise, meditation, etc.

Carlson's advice 

Supportive individuals may step up and offer a safe and comfortable atmosphere, donate to local charities, become a mentor or offer a new tradition to the child.  Don't forget to ask "What do you need?"  "What might be helpful right now?"  Don't ignore the topic but don't push discussion either.
In regards to children, self care techniques are crucial but typically needing adult guidance, especially if young. Play is the #1 priority for expression of emotion and problem solving. Self-care includes art therapy, mindfulness, yoga, journaling and spending time with friends and family.  It is also critical to allow crying and anger in a safe space for healing to occur. 
And, as a health coach, I always discuss being mindful of what we are eating and how that affects our body's functioning.  We are what we eat.