Doing Life Together

ID-10049332Question: We will be traveling to our relatives in another state for several family gatherings during Christmas. Two of my siblings are problem drinkers and I am not sure how to handle this with my family. We do not drink so my children are not used to seeing family members act up while under the influence. In the past, the drinking has gotten out of hand. My children are now old enough to ask questions. What do I do or say if the drinking starts to become a problem again?


Drinking during the holidays can get out of control and create many problems for families, especially in families where problem drinkers are in denial and do nothing to prevent getting intoxicated.

The best advice is to make sure that when you visit, you have a way of escape. Even if your siblings offer to let you stay at their homes, reserve a room at a hotel. That way, if their behavior becomes problematic, you can leave.

Before you travel, I would tell them and your parents that the past history of drinking makes you uncomfortable and that if things begin to get out of control, you will excuse yourself and leave. This way it puts the burden on them to moderate. If they persist in their behavior, you explained the rules ahead of time.

If you leave, have a talk with your children about the importance of family (the reason you continue to visit), but that there are times family members must set limits and boundaries on behavior that is unsafe or inappropriate. Being around people who are drunk is not something you want to expose them to or be around. Altered states change people in ways that are not always nice. This is a hard line to take but one that will earn the respect of your children and may cause others to rethink their enabling behavior. Don’t allow anyone to put guilt on you for setting boundaries. You are not telling your family what to do but telling them what you will or will not tolerate to keep your family safe.

ID-10053935-2A reader asks:

As much as I love to shop on-line, I prefer to tackle the masses during Christmas and head to the malls and store. My question is, “How can I shop with two little ones (ages two and four) and remain sane?” I will have to take them with me but really want to give it a try.


Holiday shopping can be done with young children. It just takes a bit of planning and a careful eye. I remember the time I lost my three-year-old in a clothing rack. I started to panic and then realized he thought the store was a great place for hide and seek. Lesson learned—explain the rules ahead of time!

Here are my     tips:

1) Before you leave the house, talk about what you are going to do and what is expected of them.

2) I would include a small reward for following directions to be established before you leave. It can be something simple like playing on a playground, listening to a CD in the car, playing a game when you return home, etc.

3) Remember that shopping for grown-up presents is boring for kids so keep your trips short. You may have to make multiple trips rather than knock it all out in a day.

4) Also remember to feed your kids before you leave home. Food does wonders to cure irritability! Take plenty of snacks and drinks with you because tiny tummies empty quickly. You can take a break, grab a table or sitting space and refresh!

6) Add a small toy or pop-up book to your bag in order to divert their interest while roaming the stores. I like this better than playing with your phone!

7) In terms of security, I’m not big on the leash idea but you need to have some way of keeping those little ones close to your side—whether that’s putting them in a cart, holding hands, shopping with a friend, etc.

8) When you get to your shopping destination, don’t wander. Know where you need to go and which gifts you are purchasing. You might want to research your purchases on-line before you head out to stores in order to have a better idea of best price and availability.

9) When you shop, buy a gift that involves the children. For example, let them help with buying a toy for a relative or toy for the family pet. Periodically, remind the children of the small reward that will come at the end.

10) Finally, pay attention to their mood. When it starts to deteriorate, it’s time to go home. Head for the car and pat yourself on the back!

Press-Pause-mediumJoanne looked at the chocolate-covered donut in her hand. As she took her first bite, she wondered, “Why am I eating this? I”m not really hungry, but the plate of goodies sitting by the office coffee pot just looks good. Besides, my boss is making me crazy!

But is there more to the story?

For most of us, YES. We eat out of emotions. When something is eating us, we eat!

All too often overeating is triggered by stress, boredom, loneliness, anger, depression and other emotions. During the holidays, these emotions can ramp up for all kinds of reasons–stress, family, finances, etc.

So the importance of learning to deal with emotions without food is a significant skill that will greatly serve long term weight control.  The key is to identify our eating triggers and respond to them without food.

An exercise that often helps is to take a sheet of paper and write headings of SITUATION, THOUGHT, EMOTION and BEHAVIOR. Then every time you eat something when you are not hungry, fill out this sheet.

What was the situation (e.g., with a friend, sitting alone in front of the TV, arguing with my boss, family conflict, etc.)?

What was the thought that ran through your mind (e.g., This is never going to be better, I can’t believe what a jerk he is right now, I hate myself, etc.)?

What was the emotion (e.g., anxious, upset, anger, frustration, etc.)?

What was the behavior (e.g., ate the donut, binged on candy, second helping, etc.)?

Once you track your eating like this for a week or so, you will probably see a pattern. For example, I eat when I am bored or I overeat every time I am with Sue. Then you can make some changes by being more intentional when those cues or triggers present.

Research shows that people who can track their eating like this, demonstrated a better rate of long-term weight loss maintenance than those who simply diet and/or exercise and don’t address behavioral and emotional issues.  Chronic overeaters and “emotional eaters” can be significantly helped by learning new behavioral skills like this one.

If you really feel stuck in this area of overeating, seek help from a licensed counselor or psychologist in your area. Also, take a look at my book, Press Pause Before  You Eat. This holiday season, don’t let what’s eating you, lead you to overeat!

BFS_Depression_LG_2It’s the most wonderful time of the year….well, not for everyone.

Holidays can be difficult if you struggle with your mood and family issues. However, there are proactive ways to keep your spirit bright.

1) Don’t overspend. Avoid being caught up in all the deals, discounts and e-shopping. Financial problems can be a real downer when those bills start rolling in. So curb the spending. Have a budget and stick to it.

2) Moderate your eating and drinking. Too much alcohol can bring on depression. Too much sugar and fat make you tired!

3) Examine your expectations. If you  have family problems, they don’t disappear during the holidays. Sometimes they worsen. So have a plan as to how you will deal with your family. What is realistic?

4) Set boundaries and limits so you are not overwhelmed with stress. Taking on too much and running around with no down time can lead to a mood crash.

5) Don’t isolate. Force yourself to go out, to attend holiday parties, church activities and community events. Being with people prevents loneliness.

6) If you know you are going to have a tough time, get support. For example, if you have been sober for months, attend AA during holidays. Don’t neglect your meetings.

7) Reach out to someone else. The best way to combat a down mood is to do something for someone else. Serve at a soup kitchen, volunteer to usher at church, participate in caroling at a nursing home, etc.

8) Refuse to be the grinch. Change your negative talk to positive talk. Force yourself to see the upside of life, not the downside. Grab hold of those negative thoughts and turn them around by being thankful.

9) Focus on the true meaning of the season. It’s hard to be down when you read the Christmas story and meditate on what Christ did for you. Get away from the commercialism and spend time with God.

10) Enjoy the moment. Sometime we get so caught up in what needs to be done, we lose the moment.  Let go of perfectionism and savor moments by your tree, with a loved one or walking in a beautiful park.