Holidays mean different things to different people but for those who have a difficult parent it can be filled with dark clouds rather than sunshine.
For those of school age, especially if they are boarders, the thought of enduring long days at home with a horrid mum or dad is extremely stressful. Undergraduates worry too that they will find home-life even more uncomfortable and inhibiting than before they left. And that they will be criticised for everything they do including spending too little or too much time at home.
Offspring with partners and children of their own can be anxious too. Visiting a difficult, unpredictable parent can feel like treading on eggshells and that at any moment you will be put down and crushed in front of your own family.
So how can these holidays be managed?
Your horrid parent may have got used to having their home to themselves and having their children back can make them feel annoyed, resentful and irritable. You will know from experience that the slightest thing can set them off and lead to a row or barrage of criticism and complaints. This may include putting excess pressure on you over your exams and try to monitor and control everything you do.
So it’s worth taking steps to diffuse tension before it builds into a row.
Use the situation as an opportunity to be more responsible. Clear up after yourself and particularly avoid leaving a mess in the kitchen or bathroom. It might not stave off arguments, but it’s a good habit to get into.
Unfortunately some horrid mothers will see everything and anything you do as an excuse to find fault with you. If the atmosphere gets you down, a good way to escape is to go to the local library and study for your exam. Or meet up with a friend for some joint revision.
It also might be worth trying to get some paid or voluntary work to help keep you out of the house. You could seize the opportunity of the spring-like weather to take lots of exercise. And catch up with friends outside the family home.
Do also look at our coping strategies on the website.
If you have come home at the end of your term at university or college try suggesting some new house rules. It might help your horrid parent back off a bit if you work out a rota that includes you cooking the occasional family meal, washing up or taking the dog out for a walk.
If you are visiting your parents with your own family don’t let yourself get involved in an argument, as you won’t win. Try to stay calm and objective and weigh up the needs of your family with those of your parents. If things are not going well, cut the visit short. You don’t have to justify yourself for leaving early. Once you are a self-supporting adult with a home of your own you can just say you need to go.