Becoming a less-than-mature version of yourself when you go home for Thanksgiving is as common as the big meal itself. Why can’t you shrug off that comment your mom made? Why are fights with your siblings from years past suddenly bubbling to the surface? And why can’t you just hang up your wet towel?
The short answer? Regression, says Jane Isay, author of Walking on Eggshells: Navigating the Delicate Relationship Between Adult Children and Parents and Mom Still Likes You Best: The Unfinished Business Between Siblings. The scents, sounds, and sights of your family (and posters in your childhood bedroom) are telling you that you’re a kid again, so your brain responds by, well, acting like the monstrous teenage version of yourself. Isay joined RealSimple.com editor Lori Leibovich on a special Thanksgiving podcast to talk about why exactly regression happens, and (thankfully) what you can do to survive the long holiday weekend with your family.
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Isay’s plan for conquering regression? First, be mindful. Regression is a psychological defense mechanism that happens to everyone. So be gentle on yourself if you realize you're not acting like much of an adult. You might even try to find the humor in it. “Laughing with your children, even, and your husband about what’s happening is a wonderful antidote to feeling infantilized—which is what you’re feeling,” Isay said.
Second, act like an adult—instead of falling back into the post-dinner cleanup roles from your childhood (kids on the couch, parents in the kitchen), offer to lend a hand. “You’d be amazed how actions which you would perform in any other house you were visiting are appreciated and change the way you see yourself, which is the trick here,” Isay said.
And last but not least, have an escape plan. Chances are, your family will drive you to the breaking point at least once. So come with transportation that’s available to you to get out when you can’t handle it anymore. “And if you don’t have a car, take a walk, and if it’s raining take an umbrella,” Isay said. “It’s about taking a moment to say, ‘I am an adult.’ This is my family and I love them. They are making me crazy now, but I will miss them when I’m gone (maybe).”
Want more tips on how to survive the holidays? Listen to the full podcast episode below as well as the other Real Simple Thanksgiving podcasts here.