CELEBRATING THE holidays is about spending time with family and friends, enjoying good food and good times and participating in traditions that have been handed down from generation to generation.
Then why is it the time of year when depression and suicide are at their highest?
Perhaps it's because things "never live up to the expectations" on which we build our hopes that, at least during this time of the year, "we can all get along," or because even that those we love just fail to understand the "true meaning" of the holiday season.
For those adult children preparing to spend the holidays with children and aging parents, this can be a particularly difficult time of the year.
For those who have aging parents who live close by, there is the responsibility of being in the middle, the "sandwich generation" of parents of children who have their way of wanting to enjoy the holidays while still being the "child" of parents who have their traditional way of celebrating. Negotiating the happy medium becomes another of the added responsibilities for the adult child.
For those who have an aging parent who might have some type of physical or cognitive impairment, bringing the two generations together is certain to mean additional stress. Reversing roles, honoring traditions, starting your own traditions and sharing time can be more difficult than finding that perfect gift.
Many adult children or those in the middle will have the added problem of trying to be two places at once.
Parents, sometimes double sets of parents, who might live some distance away but still have that expectation for the family to be together during the holidays, can be a source of a different stress - particularly if children might want to spend the holidays in their home close to other family or friends. The cost, inconvenience and logistics of trying to bring the family together are more difficult than ever before.
It's not surprising that some can't wait for this season of joy, happiness and family celebration to just be over. Unrealistic expectations, competing demands and forgetting to just take care of yourself are the ingredients of one recipe that your family meal can do without.
Carmen Morano is a professor at the University of Maryland School of Social Work in Baltimore. He specializes in geriatric caregiving.