Have you always dreamed of a Norman Rockwell Christmas - where everyone is singing Christmas carols and there is joy in the house? Alas, your Christmas memories are often filled with Uncle Joe getting drunk and your parents ending up in a fight. By the end of Christmas day family members are mad and no one is talking to one another.


Christmas can be very difficult if you grew up in a dysfunctional family and you choose to go home for Christmas. Often the holidays bring out the worst in families instead of the best. Old arguments that have never been resolved are reignited. Old wounds that you thought were healed are ripped open once again.


Is there anything you can do to truly make this Christmas different?


Here are a few suggestions:


1. Pray that God will give you the wisdom to know when to speak and when to stay quiet. Many times you won't win the age-old argument. Is it worth the fight?


2. Have realistic expectations about what will happen at your family gathering. Often we dream and envision things will be different and our dreams are crushed once again.


3. Limit your time or choose not to place yourself in toxic situations. If you will be putting yourself or your children in physical or emotional danger you may need to choose to stay home.


4. Remember and be with your "adopted family". Often people from dysfunctional families have extremely close friends who feel like family. I have had several people tell me about a friend who is like a sister or a mother to them. You may choose to spend Christmas with your "adopted family".


5. Remember your heavenly Father loves you unconditionally and that He can meet your needs, even when your earthly family does not meet your needs.


6. Recognize that there is a difference between forgiveness and acceptance of actions. You can and should forgive family members and others who have hurt you. That does not mean their actions were acceptable. Also, you can be cautious of putting yourself into situations where you could be emotionally or physically harmed once again.


7. Don't be too hard on yourself. You may have made great progress in your own spiritual and emotional growth and find when you go home you are right back where you started. Dysfunctional family patterns have a tremendous pull. You can realign yourself when you return to your own home.


8. Make a conscious choice to raise your own children and live your life in a more healthy family. Decide what new Christ honoring traditions you want to start for your family.


9. Be open to and aware of other people who come from hurting families. You have a story you may choose to share of the healing that has occurred for you. You can give others hope.