Being a family trust lawyer involves a lot more than just helping people make medical, financial, and legal decisions. It also gives you front row seats to all things family, including the good, bad, and the ugly. Unfortunately, you also see people whose lives are coming to an end, most of whom wish they could go back and get a do-over in one way or another.
With the holidays officially here again, all of us get a “holiday do-over”, so take advantage by following these 5 secrets for making the next holiday better that I’ve learned from years of being your trusted family lawyer and hearing of life’s greatest joys and regrets:
- Avoid heavy topics. Nothing ruins a holiday more than bringing up the status of your dad’s will or asking your sister-in-law if she’s ever going to have a baby. Holidays are meant to be enjoyed and relaxing. There are 365 days a year, so there’s no reason why these discussions can’t be addressed on other days. If holidays really are the only time of year you are all together, try planning a time the day before or after the holiday to address important family matters.
- Deal with drama beforehand. Two days before Thanksgiving I overheard a woman screaming, agonizing, and seething as she spoke to a family therapist in our office building. I thought, what is it, an ex-spouse, a boss, a sudden gain in weight? No, it was the thought of having to see her sister-in-law at Thanksgiving dinner. Often times we put off addressing broken family dynamics all year long, only to be forced to deal with them on holidays that were meant to be fun. Address family issues beforehand or try having your family gathering on a different day so you can look forward to the actual holiday.
- No more than two rule. Most happy families we know have made it a priority to not over-schedule, meaning they limit their activities to two per day. Rather than drag your kids around to multiple homes on a holiday hoping to make everyone else happy, try limiting the day to one simple activity with your own family unit, and one family gathering with the extended family.
- Say yes, mean yes. Anyone else begrudgingly agree to do something, like go to your in-laws on a holiday, only to complain about it the entire week before, the entire drive there, and the entire week after? If you tell your spouse or family “yes”, then you should mean yes. A real yes means you are freely agreeing to do something, and will make the most out of it, rather than sabotage it every change you get. It’s normal to complain but not to the point when it overshadows or ruins the entire experience for others.
- Facebook Free. Did you know holidays are a low traffic day for social media sites? That is a good thing! I have never once had a client, when preserving their special memories, or facing the end of their life, say their best life moments were spent surfing the web or liking stuff on Facebook. Special memories are made before they can ever be posted, so focus on making lots of them on the actual holiday, and any day for that matter.
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Laura K. Meier, Esq. is a family trust attorney and mother of four young children. She is the author of Good Parents Worry, Great Parents Plan. Laura and her husband, Joshua D. Meier, Esq. run a business and estate planning law firm together in Newport Beach, CA.