Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas – Tips for Navigating Through the Holiday Season
Written by: Robyn Wiebe
Featuring: Paul Penner
With Christmas just around the corner, many people are trying to navigate how to spend time with family and friends amid recent public health orders, and differences taking forefront in many minds and conversations.
Pembina Counselling Centre Clinical Director, Paul Penner, said we are all feeling the angst.
“We are feeling what’s happening in our world, we’re feeling it locally here. Although the Pembina Valley is filled with so many people of goodwill, even so, people and family members and our community have been deeply affected by COVID issues. In spite of all the goodwill in our area, we feel the tension and division in our circles. When it comes to Christmas, and doing things together, that’s being restricted and we feel we don’t get to enjoy being together as freely with people, or in venues, as perhaps we would like to, and we’re all mindful of it, aren’t we?”
With gathering sizes restricted, difficult decisions have to be made about how larger families celebrate Christmas when they are used to all being together at this time of year. Penner recognized that people are in different places inaccepting this reality.
“Everybody is trying to do what they believe is in their best interest, right? We we may not be informed as well as we should be when we’re having these conversations, and so sometimes it makes sense to be humble, and to be open to learning if we have concerns. We can say, ‘You know, I’m concerned about this,’ but in the end, we don’t get to make decisions for other people. We really need to value and believe that everybody is trying to make the best decision for themselves.”
According to Penner, the divisions fall most significantly on the fear of the vaccine and possible side effects, the fear of getting COVID-19, and the fear of limitations. “These themes come up in our conversations, and fear is powerful,” he said, noting fear has the power to influence our beliefs and behaviours.
Penner shared some tips on how to talk about these fears respectfully.
“I’m focusing and trying to organize how I relate to people is to be genuine, speak from the heart, let my heart and what concerns and consideration for others be more important than fears, or my fears anyway, or their fears. Just relate to what matters to us, what we care about, and looking forward to when this time is passed. Hopefully that will happen. We’ll look back, and if we’re able to speak from the heart and show that we care, and we’re considerate of each other, it will help us and it’ll help us build bridges.”
Penner shared how he is trying to enjoy the holiday season, and he encourages people to make the most of the time that is spent together.
“I have a faith. I pray. I’m concerned about the very things we’re talking about, and how do we hold our relationships close. We have friends. We have family. It doesn’t hurt to communicate from the heart, to care, to respect, and to still do the good things we want to do, and we want to express. If we do have the freedom to be together, and enjoy each other, then we laugh and we play too, and all of those pieces are important, but sometime we’ll be looking back, and that’s what will hold us together.”