Coping with the holidays while being away from home

The holidays are upon us, a wonderful time of year. Or are they? As an immigrant, most people are far from their family and friends abroad. It is hard not to feel lonely and sad during the holiday season when family and friendship values are the highlights of the celebration.

Whether the relocation was voluntary, as in the case of tourists, migrant workers, and students, or if it was forced, as in the case of refugees and forced migrants (people from crisis-stricken or poor countries), does not matter. We all sometimes feel sad and lonely when we think about our home abroad, no matter what our story is. When we already have so many stresses to deal with during the holiday season, it’s particularly hard to deal with those feelings.

The holiday blues is often caused by or contributed to by feelings of homesickness during the holiday season. Therefore, this can cause significant challenges on various levels of our functioning in our everyday lives. However, it is important to note that the holiday blues phenomenon does not only affect immigrants, but it can affect all of us. Immigrants, however, tend to be more prone to experience the holiday blues than nonimmigrants.

The parents of these immigrant children may feel guilty about celebrating a holiday they don’t understand, or that even goes against their religious beliefs. Due to cultural differences, adult children of immigrants may be triggered by their filial piety, guilt, and avoidance regarding their families of origin during this period. Often, the holidays are a time when immigrants may feel especially torn between two worlds.

The reason for this is that immigrants face a special type of stress known as acculturation. Immigrant children experience acculturative stress when they do not match their parents’ levels of acculturation or conform to parental guidance, which results in a role reversal and increased parent-child conflict.

However, while you may not be able to change other people or situations, you can change how you interpret them and what you can do. Below are a few tips to help you survive the holidays:

  • Manage your expectations
  • Identify and set boundaries
  • Accept the things you can and cannot change
  • Reinvent and reclaim the holidays