Do you have family staying with you who comes from a cumulative culture? While you enjoy the quality time, do you dislike having someone living with you 24/7? Do you feel obligated to be nice and respectful but from within you are bubbling with anger and frustration?
Welcome to my world...
My parents visited us for 3 weeks from Iran this September. During their visit, they stayed in our guest room. My 6-year-old son loves these visits because not only he gets extra attention, but also gets few extra ice creams, burgers, candies which in his language means LOVE. He also gets to brag about things he does with grandparents at school. Something he rarely gets to do! The absence of grandparents can be easily overlooked by non-immigrants. However for an immigrant, holidays, birthdays, and special occasions can be somewhat lonely without family and friends they grew up with which makes family visits even more precious...
While these visits are quite exciting for my child, they are quite stressful at my end...While I enjoy these precious moments with people whom I love dearly, I live with 3 people that push my buttons; my Mom, my Dad, and my Son! I feel judged constantly especially around my parenting style, my way of life, and my role in my marriage. As a result, I become more reactive to things done or words said for later to feel guilty and angry with myself.
Overall, It is not easy to live with your parent when you are older and have a family of your own. Many times you are urged to not say anything because of cultural definition of respect. However, at times, this can affect your stress level, your relationships, and ultimately your peace at your own house. Many times, upon their departure, I felt a sense of relief and guilt at the same time. Knowing that time is ticking and these moments are precious, I wanted to enjoy and love every minute of it guilt free. So I decided to act differently!
As a result, I developed a 5 step process to help me enjoy the time I spend with them… If what I said so far resonates with you, please try my method! Many friends, clients, and coworkers tried and loved it! so this is your opportunity.
Here are my 5 steps to a peaceful and loving parental visit :
Step1: Recognize your buttons
My first step was figuring out what were the events or words that triggered my unfavorable response. The events and reactions that made me feel anything but peaceful and loving. The ones that I needed to call someone up and whine about them! The ones that had the deep emotional charge to them. So, I created a list of them! A loooong list of them.
Step 2: Taking Responsibility
I took responsibility for every action and thought! Easy? NO! I was not at fault for many of them and I knew.
Reminder, we are not talking about fault here, its about responsibility.
So I took responsibility of my reactions. The ones that made me regret my responses. As an energy leadership coach, I know that responsibility has a component of choice which makes it more positive compared to the conflict of whose right! So, I chose to accept rather than fight… After all, I could have reacted differently!
Step 3: Understanding the Reaction
In this step, I tried to understand the hidden message I give myself. How? I found out if there was an actual reason behind my reaction? Was there a value being challenged or was it simply an interpretation or an assumption that my mind was making. For example I noticed when my dad said let your son have the extra candy, I took it in as I am being too strict. Or when my mom asked me to help with organizing a cabinet, I interpreted as being messy and unorganized person... Needless to say, some of those intentions might have been there on their end but I tried to take responsibility for my own feeling and actions. They actually didn't say that! See step 2 if you are still judgmental at this step.
Step 4: Alternative reaction
In my world, planning is the key! I thought and wrote about the other options that were available to me at the time. I evaluated them to see which one would match who I wanted to show up to be. I practiced and play the scenario in my mind so that it came naturally at the time of trigger. For example in the case of my dad offering extra candy, I simply thanked him for being extra loving toward my son but reminded him that my son had his share of sweets for the day. Or with my mom trying to clean my cabinet out of boredom, I thanked her for her help and gave her a list of things I've been neglecting and could use her help on. As a working parent, the list was quite long!
Step 5: Peaceful action
Going through every step prepared me very well. Once the trigger rose, I tried the new reaction mindfully. Did it happen on the first try? No! If I was happy with the outcome, Great! Done! Checked it off on my list! If I felt anything but peace, I went back to step 3. Sometimes I needed to bounce back to step 1 because, with the new awareness, I came across a new button.
Much less triggers!
More love and understanding!
Several open Empowering communicationZ with my parents!
Most importantly a peaceful, loving vacation for them and a peaceful and guilt free parental visit for me!
This time when as a tradition I poured a bowl of water behind their car going to the airport, I added few extra flowers from the bottom of my heart wishing them a safe trip and quick return!
Total WIN / WIN!
Remember you always have a choice to react the same way you did before and if you do know that you will get the same result!
If this technique was helpful to you, share it with others who have parents visiting during the holidays or those Iranians who have parents visiting every 6 months. Sign up for my Newsletter to get helpful tips like this.
by: Mehran Sorourian
image property of Mehran Sorourian