Celebrating the Holidays When You Live Away from Immediate Family

Holiday tree ball ornament decoration
Pxhere.com [Christmas tree ornament, March, 16, 2017, CC0]
Families of military service members often face major life changes and transitions that shape their career, their higher education goals, and their relationships and family dynamics. With military families experiencing moves three times more often than the average civilian family, military family life is often accompanied by unique stressors [1]. Spouses of service members often face these challenges in the midst of balancing their shifting roles on both personal and professional levels. Christine “C.C.” Gallagher, Founder of Military Quality of Life Consulting, LLC, is both a mother of two military children and spouse to an active duty Army soldier and has experienced many of the major life changes that accompany military family life.

 

C.C. first collaborated with MFLN as a guest panelist during our 2019 Relationships for Readiness Virtual Conference opening session, The Family Readiness System and You, where she spoke to her experience as a mother, spouse, and entrepreneur in a military family. She also joined us for an episode of our Anchored Podcast Series, Supporting Military Spouses with Employment and Higher Education Transitions, and discussed how her life as a military spouse and mother to military children has influenced her professional employment evolution into an entrepreneur and small business owner. Today, our Family Development team welcomes C.C. as a guest blogger as she continues the conversation and shares her perspective on how life within a military family can bring many obstacles but can also be an opportunity for change and growth.

 Living Away from Family During the Holiday Season

Military families are all too familiar in living away from immediate family due to the requirements of military service. According to the 2018 Blue Star Families, Military Family Lifestyle Survey, one of the top 5 individual stressors that military spouses identified was being isolated from family and friends [2].

This separation can make the holiday season feel a little lonely and a little less special, especially when it seems that everyone around you or those connected to you on social media are planning their large family gatherings or continuing their holiday traditions.

Instead of focusing on the separation from family and friends during the upcoming holiday period, here are a few tips that you can use in order to celebrate the holidays when you are away from your family:

Virtual Gathering: We are lucky to live in a time when technology allows for real-time, live video communication. FaceTime, Skype or even Google chat are a few of the many options available to connect with your extended family wherever you are around them. We do our best to Facetime with our family members which include our children’s grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles on a regular basis. Our young children are then able to recognize their voices and faces when we have the opportunity to travel across the country to visit.

Celebrate locally with your friends, neighbors and/or colleagues: Select someone’s house to host the party, write out the menu, assign different individuals/families a dish and celebrate the holidays in a new way. One of the benefits of military service is bringing people together from different backgrounds and locations. If you are aware of any other families that might not be with their relatives or loved ones this holiday season, reach out and incorporate them into your holiday season.

Start Your Own Traditions: Whether it’s a unique recipe or special activity, it’s never too early to start your family’s traditions. Leverage the opportunity of being isolated from extended family to try something new and different.

Plan Your Next Family Reunion: Since you are unable to travel during the holidays, use this time to plan your next trip home or for a family reunion. You can explore a new city, national park or bucket list location. Perhaps it can be during your next PCS.

Our family seems to move further and further away from the immediate family with each PCS. We do our best to visit ‘home’ at least once a year but are extremely lucky to find great people in every duty station that we can call family. Happy holidays from our family to yours!

With the holidays approaching, what additional tips can you offer to other military families?


We want to thank C.C. Gallagher for contributing to our MFLN Family Development blog! Be sure to stay tuned throughout 2020 for more guest contributions from her. The next installment in this blog series is to come in April 2020. For access to all of MFLN Family Development’s blog posts, please click here.

References

[1] American Association of School Administrators. (2019). “Fact Sheet on the Military Child.” Retrieved from: https://www.aasa.org/content.aspx?id=8998#

 

[2] Sonethavilay, H., Maury, R.V., Hurwitz, J., & Uveges, R.L. (2018). “Blue Star Families Military Family Lifestyle Survey: Comprehensive Report.” Dept. of Applied Research at Blue Star Families & The Institute of Veterans & Military Families, Syracuse University. Retrieved from: https://bluestarfam.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/2018MFLS-ComprehensiveReport-DIGITAL-FINAL.pdf

 

This post was written by members of the MFLN Family Development Team. The Family Development team aims to support the development of professionals working with military families.  Learn more about us at https://militaryfamilieslearningnetwork.org/family-development, and connect with us on Facebook, and on Twitter.  Subscribe to our Anchored. podcast series on iTunes and via our podcast page.

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