Saturday, November 22, 2014

8 Tips For Surviving the Holidays Without Your LEO

Encouraging tips for thriving through the holiday season

 as a Law Enforcement Family

One of the hardest aspects of being a Law Enforcement family can be the subject of holidays. For most families, we will experience a holiday or two alone or spent without our LEO. Depending on your situation, celebrating a holiday without your LEO can be anything but happy. It can bring up feelings of sadness, abandonment, loneliness, and depression. For children it can be confusing and hard to understand not to mention a total drag having your mom or dad miss out on holiday festivities. For most families it can be a difficult and disappointing reality of the job.

So how do you cope as an LE family during the holiday season? Here are a few tips that I have found helpful to overcome the downer of a holiday alone.

  • Be Flexible- This has become a necessity so far for every holiday in our family. Many of the holidays throughout the year my LEO works, whether because holidays fall on his shift days, or he takes the holiday/overtime pay opportunity. One way we juggle the holiday schedule and still feel like we get to celebrate the season is by staying flexible. We celebrate the holiday on a different day and try to keep a positive attitude. We look at the situation with a positive perspective. While we may not celebrate Christmas on Christmas Day, we celebrate the days before and our family ends up having a Christmas week...can that get any more fun? Our family gets to celebrate the holiday on our own day and we end up having two holidays when we come together with family and friends on the actual day. While my LEO may not be present on the actual holiday, the fact we make an effort to still celebrate together on a different day helps buffer the affects of celebrating with others without him. Not having your LEO home on the specific holiday is not an end flexible, be creative, and you just might find your holiday season filled with double the merriment! 
  • Check Your Realities- Couples canoodle everywhere, the ideal image of happiness and cheer are in every ad, holiday song, or movie, commercials show huge, happy family gatherings. There are the pressures of the latest gifts, baking/cooking craziness, and the perfectly hosted party. Check your realities. When you feel the pressures of the holiday, remember the commercial expectations of the holidays are not reality for anyone. Don't expect the perfect holiday. Expectations are unfair to yourself and can produce more disappointment and hurt when they don't come to pass the way we imagined. No family is perfect, no holiday will be perfect, and sometimes things don't go as planned. Give yourself a break and remind yourself that how your family does the holidays is perfect for you...even the crazy, messed up parts. When you feel caught up in the craziness, take a deep breath, get back to square one, and remember the simple things about the holiday are what matter most. Hold your ideals of the holiday loosely and remind yourself to go with the flow. Give yourself and others a break during the holidays and remember, your best is good enough.
  • Make Your Own Traditions- Who says you have to celebrate the holiday the way millions of others do? In the same way you shouldn't be afraid to mix up the holiday schedule don't be afraid to make new traditions from the adjustments too! Whether those new traditions are who you celebrate with, meeting your LEO at the office for a quick Christmas cookie and milk moment, or finding a way to surprise your LEO when they are on shift (think little stocking stuffers all over their squad car, or in the pockets of their vest). If it's a summer holiday, meet your LEO on their break for a paper plate BBQ in the park to include them in 4th of July festivities. There are probably other families in your department celebrating without their LEO- get together for a spouse/kids day and enjoy games and yummy snacks with other LE families. There are lots of ways to make the mixed up moments of the holiday season a tradition for your family and traditions can also include others!
  • Communicate with Others- One way to buffer some of the heartache of missing your LEO on holidays is to communicate with family and friends. Let them know when your LEO won't be part of the festivities and don't be afraid to share if you are struggling or need extra support. Often times friends and family have no idea that holidays alone are part of the job and can be painful. By communicating your situation and feelings it allows your support group to come along side and do their part to help. Let them know this year is different for your family and see if getting together on a different day is possible. It can become another of those crazy Police family traditions!
  • Pick Your Family- For some families, celebrating with immediate family on a different day is just not an option. Whether because of everyone elses' work schedules or travel, spending a holiday with extended family may not be an option this year. In that case...pick your family! I can guarantee you, you are not the only Police family celebrating on a different day or without your LEO. Last year I hosted a LE Thanksgiving and invited a few other LE families to our home a week before Turkey Day. Our dinner included the whole nine yards and we enjoyed watching the kids play and were able to have adult conversation just like the actual holiday. Thanks to being flexible, I met one of my dearest friends that day. We are a part of a very special Blue Family, don't be afraid to include them in your holiday this year!  You might be very surprised at how much fun you have with your adopted family!
  •  Be Good To Yourself- If you are feeling blue don't forget to take care of yourself. Treat yourself to a special day, do what feels good, or do what you want to. It's ok to get together with friends for a fun day, take a walk in the fresh air, or set aside some time to yourself for self care. The holidays can get nutty and taking time for yourself is a must. It's your holiday too and you are absolutely allowed to be there for yourself just like you are there for others. Know your limits and your needs and don't be afraid to take care of yourself! Make that huge dinner just for yourself, or take a break this year and invite yourself to someone elses' party. Each holiday is different and our situations each year are different's ok to shirk the ideal holiday and do what is best for you this year.
  • Don't Let Guilt Hitch A Ride- Throw guilt out the window, whether it's guilt from not being happy during a holiday, or guilt from celebrating without your LEO. Try not to put unfair pressure on yourself to be happy or even to enjoy the holidays. Try not to over-think your situation and interactions with others. Give yourself a break during a holiday and remember you are human and your best is enough.
  • Positive Perspective- Finally, when it all comes down to it, life is uncontrollable. Especially as an LE family. Plans change, time is interrupted, and disappointments happen. But one thing is my lifeline through it all...a positive perspective. I refuse to hurt myself with negativity. I want the best for myself because I'm worth it and one way of claiming my value is by trying to stay positive. We can be our own worst enemies by the outlook we have in situations. Instead of reacting with negativity to hardships, practice seeing the good and keeping a positive attitude. Operating in negativity or operating with a positive perspective takes the same amount of energy, though the result of staying positive produces the best outcome for your efforts.

I hope you are able to truly enjoy the holidays this season, knowing your best is good enough and even if this year is a difficult one, there is always next year (thank goodness, right?). With a little self management, a positive perspective, and an overcoming spirit, no matter what the holidays throw at you this can survive and thrive this holiday season!

Here are a few more articles for a successful holiday season!

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