Counseling for Couples, Families and Individuals

liz gentry

“Home for the Holidays…..the joys and the sorrows!”
Liz Gentry, MA

We arrive home or greet our family at our front door, often with mixed feelings.  On one hand, we want to hug them, see them, experience the grandkids, nieces & nephews and hear about their lives.  On the other hand, we know there might be some tense moments with hurts feelings, loud exchanges or cold silence.   So what are we to do?   Actually, there are some very important things you can do to change old patterns.  By considering the following and making a few adjustments, you can experience a much more positive outcome.

First, have realistic hopes, then plan for what is likely to happen, based on what has happened repeatedly in the past.  Think about meals or other times during the visit that the family will be together.  Play the situation in your head as if you are watching a movie.  What do you notice that you like about what you observe?  What do you notice that is difficult?  Who is present?  Who is the most positive and supportive of you?  Where is the most relational tension?  What is the sequence of events that leads to a problem for you?  This means identifying not only words that are spoken but unspoken words as well.  Behaviors such as turning away when someone is talking, interrupting, rolling eyes, laughing, ignoring are important to notice.  Imagine you are viewing a video of the event, using the above questions and non-verbal behaviors, identify what happens when.  Notice everyone’s words and actions. 

Now, reviewing the video, notice your own verbal and non-verbal responses.    Take this opportunity to be objective; don’t be discouraged.  Now that you are aware of the predictable behaviors, you will have the ability to do something different, changing the patterns and resulting in a more positive outcome.

When considering your own behavior, what would you like to keep and what would you like to change?  Identify small steps that you could change.  Anticipate that someone might not like the change or changes.  Who would most likely attempt to sabotage the changes you are trying to make?  What will you do then?

Lastly, after the holidays review and critique the results.  What worked well?  Where can you continue to make changes?  What else would you like to try to make changes?  Where did you get anxious and get pulled back into tension? 

One of the changes you might need to make is taking some time to be by yourself in order to calm down and re-group when the tension rises.  While this might be breaking the rules that the family should all be together you might need to do this for yourself and your ability to function in the family more effectively. 

Remember, if at first you don’t succeed try, try again.  Families are growing and evolving.  In relationships, we get do-overs.  We can keep trying to get it “right”.

For more information please contact Liz Gentry at 288-7453.


Leaving Home Successfully

A young mother was recently telling the parenting philosophy of her mother.  The grandmother believed that the baby she carried in her womb was hers until the umbilical cord was cut.  Upon birth and the cord being cut the baby no longer belonged to her.  I thought that was a wise counsel.  

As parents it is our responsibility to provide for our children.  For their physical needs, for safety and protection, for teaching them, nurturing them, disciplining them and training them.  When children become adults the job of the parents comes to an end.   The life and choices of the young adult become their responsibility.  

In order for children to leave home successfully parents  must help them leave emotionally as well as physically.  In order to leave home physically they must first know they are free to leave emotionally.  To leave emotionally means parents release them from any responsibility to them.  That means they are not responsible for making their parents happy, for obeying them, or for making the parents life complete.  This allows the parents and grown children to renegotiate a new relationship based on choice and not on obligation.

The parent’s responsibility for their child’s leaving home:

  • ¬ The parents must resign from taking responsibility for the health, happiness and success of their grown child.  In return, the parent gives up position, power, privilege and an expectation of continuing to be the first priority of the grown child.  
  • ¬ Parent’s have the responsibility to resolve their own hopes, fears, success and failures and the values and judgments of their own life experiences.  Each parent also has the responsibility to evaluate their responses to his/her life experiences and achievements.  
  • ¬ The parents also have the responsibility to work out their own relationship issues:  successes, failures, differences, hopes and dreams, disillusionment.  The parent’s have the responsibility to come to terms with their own marriage; the failure to do so could be passed on their children as unresolved issues.  
  • ¬ Parents give a blessing to their children when they wave them good-bye knowing they are letting go.  

The young adults responsibility in leaving home:

  • ¬ Leave the home psychologically but still be able to belong to the family emotionally; one’s parents are no longer one’s primary relationship.
  • ¬ To become peers with their parents in a mutually chosen relationship.  Decide to no longer make mortgage payments to the past and yet simultaneously continue to show gratitude for what one has been given.

When both parents and young adult are able to let go and leave home appropriately the emotional inheritance from the intergenerational past is lessened.  That means the young adult is not obligated to carry the spiritual/emotional baggage of the past generations forward into their life and into the life of their children.  The young adult is capable of making healthy, responsible choices. 


Based on the work of Donald Williamson, Intimacy Paradox

Austin Family Institute