Often the hardest part about choosing an alternative Christmas is telling your extended family you won't be joining them this year. In case you want to take the plunge, we found some wise advice on making that dreaded phone call home that will ease the way for everyone.
"I won't be home for Christmas" is excerpted from Lifescripts for Family and Friends by Erik Kolbell. Copyright 2002 by Third Millennium Press, Erik Kolbell and Stephen M. Pollan. Excerpted, with permission by Pocket Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
There are three factors that can make this script prove either a piece of cake or tough sledding. First, the better your reason for not coming home, the less difficult it will be for your family to accept your decision. If - as I have suggested here - you and your spouse are simply too exhausted to make the trip and you've decided to stay at home for a little R&R, chances are a reasonable family will understand. If, on the other hand, you've decided to go out on a blind date instead of sitting at the family's annual Thanksgiving dinner table, be prepared for some fireworks. Second, the meaning your family ascribes to the particular holiday will figure in how intensely they react. Labor Day, for instance, might not be as big a deal as, say, Christmas or Passover. Finally, your load will be lighter if you can propose an occasion after the holiday season when you all might get together, reinforcing your affection for them.
• Attitude: Show this isn't an easy decision for you; that you truly enjoy the holidays at home, but this year something simply had to give.
• Preparation: If possible, speak to your siblings first and see if they will support your decision. They may be easier to persuade than your parents. Also, think of when after the holidays you might be able to visit your family and be prepared to suggest this.
• Timing: Do this at a time when you've been attentive to your family (phone calls, visits, etc.) as opposed to a time when you've been out of touch for a while. Also, do it as far in advance of the holiday as possible.
• Behavior: Don't be apologetic for a decision you've made of your own free will. By the same token, don't be defiant, as though you dare them to find fault with your decision. Stress that you see this as a necessity, and you hope they'll understand. Also, don't rise to the bait of sarcasm or veiled anger. Stay cool.
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