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Session 282: Blending Families for the Holidays

The Therapy for Black Girls Podcast is a weekly conversation with Dr. Joy Harden Bradford, a licensed Psychologist in Atlanta, Georgia, about all things mental health, personal development, and all the small decisions we can make to become the best possible versions of ourselves.

This week I’m joined by Jordan A. Madison, licensed clinical marriage and family therapist and contributing writer to the Therapy for Black Girls blog. We discussed some of the more common feelings associated with blending families for the first time, what about the holidays overall can cause tension amongst family members, how you can maintain your wellness practices while other people are staying in your home or you’re staying in someone else’s, and how to tell your family you’re not coming home for the holidays.


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Session 282: Blending Families for the Holidays

Dr. Joy: Hey, y'all! Thanks so much for joining me for Session 282 of the Therapy for Black Girls podcast. We'll get right into our conversation after a word from our sponsors.


Dr. Joy: Whether you're bringing a plus one to this year's family dinner or planning to spend the holidays with the cousins you haven't seen in years, there's one thing for certain: blending new family members with old traditions can be tricky, as if spending the holidays with your family isn't hard enough. This week, I'm joined by Jordan A. Madison, licensed clinical marriage and family therapist and contributing writer to the Therapy for Black Girls blog. You may also remember Jordan’s voice if you listened to our holiday episode last year, Session 186, The Joy of Jingle Jangle. In this week's session, Jordan and I’s conversation explore some of the more common feelings associated with blending families for the first time, what about the holidays overall can cause tension amongst family members, how you can maintain your wellness practices while other people are staying in your home (or if you're staying in someone else's) and telling your family you're not coming home for the holidays. If something resonates with you while enjoying our conversation, please share it with us on social media using the hashtag #TBGinSession or join us over in the Sister Circle to talk more in depth about the episode. You can join us at Here's our conversation.

Dr. Joy: Thank you so much for joining us again, Jordan.

Jordan: Thank you. Thank you for having me.

Dr. Joy: I feel like you are a special holiday guest coming in to talk about all things holidays. Last time we talked about Jingle Jangle which is still one of my favorites, but this year, we're gonna get into something a little different. We have a handful of community members who are planning to blend families for the first time this holiday season. Some people are meeting their significant other's family members for the first time, other people are hosting the holidays for the first time, and maybe in laws are coming together. And so I wanted to have you on to talk about how we can really take care of ourselves during this time, but also if you could share some helpful tips for people who are preparing for this moment in their lives.

Jordan: Of course. Holiday season is extremely exciting, but it can also be nerve racking and stressful for a lot of people, especially when it comes to blending families, so definitely can understand that.

Dr. Joy: What would you say are some of the common feelings that are associated with blending families for the first time?

Jordan: One I think is just like nervousness. Is this person going to like me? Is their family going to accept me? Do we have some of the same traditions? Are we gonna like the same food, the same mixes? Things like that. And I think other things coming up can be just sometimes there's maybe insecurities or comparing your family to theirs. Sometimes I think it can get a little like my family does it this way and your family does it that way, do I have to concede and give in? Do I stick to what I'm doing? And I think for couples, especially for the first time, it can sometimes be a little nerve racking. Like how do we assert ourselves as a couple in this space together? Because typically, when we go to our family of origin, we kind of fall back into being, not the little kid per se, but we fall back into whatever role we usually have in our family. And so when you're adding another person, it can feel a little like, how do I navigate still being the baby of the family, but also now here's my partner and I need to assert myself and make sure that you respect our boundaries, you respect our relationship?

Dr. Joy: That's a whole word there. How would you say that people can go about best preparing themselves? Are there certain conversations they should have? What kinds of things do they need to do to prepare themselves for this?

Jordan: The first thing that comes to mind is having a code word. Maybe if things feel a little tense or get too hectic or you need a break, like you and your partner having a special word, phrase, maybe gesture, that signals “hey, we need to regroup.” I think the biggest thing to remember when blending families and during the holiday season is that you and your partner are a team. So you two are approaching this together, it's going to be nerve racking for both of you, obviously, I do think having conversations would be helpful first. And maybe those conversations look like, are there any family dynamics that I should know about? Or are there certain things that maybe your parents don't like or that make them uncomfortable? Any topics that are hot topics in your family? Because for some families, especially given the recent political climate, some families don't discuss politics.

Are there certain things that we just stay away from or that I should know not to bring up? Because maybe in my family, I don't think it's that big of a deal but in your family, it can cause World War III. So what are some things that I need to be aware of? And then I think, having conversations even after the dinner or after the holidays of like how was that for you? What are things that you noticed? Because I do think seeing your partner around their family helps you to understand more family dynamics, it helps you to understand maybe why your partner does certain things or sees things a certain way. And so I think a check in before and after is really helpful.

Dr. Joy: What if I noticed something in this blended family holiday that I'm like, oh, I don't know if I like that about my partner. Like, oh, that's interesting, I didn't anticipate that he would behave this way. How would you have that conversation as a post-check in? What are some ways to maybe point out some concerns maybe that you noticed as a part of that?

Jordan: I would definitely say to wait until after the holidays because bringing it up in the middle of it, I don't know if that would be received as well. You two are both probably stressed and things like that. I would say bringing it up after and approaching it with curiosity. Instead of a “why did you act like this?” or “you were acting funny, I didn't like that...” Maybe like, “Hey, I noticed that when your mom walked through the door, you seemed to get a little quieter, you didn't seem as assertive as you usually are. What's that about? Or is that something that you noticed, too? Is that something that usually comes up for you?” Because maybe it's something that they did because they're also nervous or maybe it is a family dynamic that you're like we need to talk through this. And so I think that approaching things with curiosity with “this is what I've noticed, has anyone else in your family noticed this too?” Because sometimes, when we're a part of our own family, we don't always see the patterns or the different nuances, whereas someone on the outside looking in is able to call some stuff out.

Obviously, approaching it with “there's no judgment, this is just what I'm noticing.” And maybe your partner is like, yeah, you know what, that does happen a lot and this is why. Or it's like, wow, no one's ever told us that before and I didn't realize that and maybe there are some new things that I need to do and do differently. So approaching it with curiosity and being gentle for sure. And then as the partner hearing it, trying to also remind yourself this is not a personal attack against your family. It's not saying that something that you did was completely wrong. Ift's just you two are kind of starting to navigate: we've been a couple and we've been used to just us in this bubble, what do we look like as a couple when we're interacting with our families? Or our friends as well.

Dr. Joy: You mentioned earlier that even though the holidays can be an exciting time, it can also be very stressful. What are some of the things that you think often lead to tension in family members around the holidays?

Jordan: In my experience, at least what has come up sometimes has been people have different feelings around the holidays. For some people, the holidays can bring up grief or some sadness because you're reminded of maybe people that you no longer have with you or you're feeling maybe alone and things like that. And if you're with a partner who's just super happy and excited about the holidays, there can be some tension because your partner is like, what's wrong with you? Like why are you so sad and miserable? But you're like, hey, I'm going through something and I need some patience, too. So I think a big thing is just people's views on holidays. I think the expectation is that everyone just loves the holidays and it makes them feel all warm inside because I do love the holidays and it makes me feel warm inside. But understanding that that's not the exact same experience for everyone. And so having understanding around that, I think is a big deal.

Another thing that comes to mind with tension around the holidays, I will say is setting boundaries. It can be really hard to set boundaries, especially with loved ones. Especially as black women, we feel like I owe this person this or it'd be selfish if I say no, or I have to do this, I have to handle everything and do it myself. And so when there's that added pressure, then you might feel resentful or you might feel like you're doing everything and you might snap at others or whatever the case may be and that can cause some tension. And then also just the expectations. If there are expectations that people have of you that feel really heavy, like you're always the host or you always do certain things, and let's say you're tired or you just need a break or you want help. You don't mind doing it but you don't want to be the only one—that can also cause a lot of tension.

Dr. Joy: I appreciate you bringing up the idea of grief around the holidays, I think especially against our current backdrop. We know that we have lost so many people to COVID and just other things in the past couple of years. And I think for a lot of people this may be their first year maybe gathering again, if they are. Can you say a little bit about how to manage grief or how to keep expectations level as we are approaching the holiday season, for people maybe this is their first holiday season after losing someone?

Jordan: I would definitely say to give yourself grace. Grief comes up unexpectedly, it comes in waves, you have to allow yourself to feel how you're feeling. Do not force yourself to be all happy go lucky and smiley if that's really just not how you're feeling. Obviously, there's other beliefs where people say sometimes you just have to fake it till you make it or put a smile on your face. But I think it's really important that you surround yourself with at least one or two people who know and understand that you might not react or behave the same way that you typically do during the holiday season because you are processing the loss of someone or the loss of ideas, the loss of, you know, there's a lot of things that have changed in the past two and a half years. So I would say surrounding yourself with people who also get it and don't expect you to just move through it and be okay but that allow you time to process it. Because typically, when you have a space to cry it out or have a moment, then you feel like, okay, I'm not holding it in anymore. And then you're able to maybe go back and enjoy a family gathering or you're able to go back and enjoy something. But when you feel like you're trying to keep it in and bottle it up, then I think it's really hard.

Dr. Joy: Thank you. We have a couple of scenarios that our community sent in. We told them that we're going to be talking about blending families for the holidays and asked them what questions they had. And so we have a couple of scenarios that I want to share with you to see if you have some feedback or tips that you would offer them. The first one is: my biological parents have been divorced for over 20 years and during the time, I've always had to split my time between them on Christmas Day. Dad and stepmom in the morning and mom in the evening. Now that I have my own family, I'd like to invite all my parents over so we can spend quality time together. I'm nervous about bringing it up and even more nervous about making it happen.

Jordan: Okay. What comes to mind because my parents are not together, they do get along and things like that, but I always have to go back and forth. And I'm always making a joke like do I have to pop out a kid for everyone to come see me, because this is a lot? So I definitely understand wanting everyone to come to you because it's difficult always having to split. And so I think having a conversation. Hopefully they've been divorced for a long enough time that maybe the focus is I want to spend this time with both of you and I want you both to be in the same space. You don't have to sit next to each other, you don't have to be all buddy buddy, but what I do want is both of my parents to be with me as I enter this new stage as I’ve started my own family. If there's grandkids in the mix, grandparents love their grandkids. So if you focus on “the kids really want to be able to have their grandma and grandpa there,” hopefully that can soften it a bit too. But reminding them that what's really important is just having the quality time spent. They don't have to interact necessarily, they don't have to act as if everything is okay, but they can at least be cordial and that's really all you're asking for.

Dr. Joy: I'm curious, Jordan. I'm thinking about when my husband and I got married, the conversations around, okay, how are we doing holidays now? Even before we had kids. And what we’ve decided on is switching back and forth for Thanksgiving and Christmas. But I'm wondering, in your work, because you do a lot of work with couples, are there other conversations that people are having or other arrangements people are making around the holidays that might be helpful for other people to think about?

Jordan: I think it's also really about the expectations that you have because maybe it's easier for everyone to come to you. I also think it depends on logistics, where people are located. But I think certain things that are working out is just, one year we do this, next year we do that. Switching back and forth. That seems to be the consensus, what a lot of people do and what's fair. For other people, they decide… I had one couple I was thinking of, her family was in the Virgin Islands and so I think Thanksgiving was really important to her family and then Christmas because her husband's birthday was nearer then, and that's just their holiday. And there's no pressure about we go back and forth or whatever the case may be. So I think it really depends on what are the holidays that are important?

Another thing that's been helpful and what I've heard is maybe it's not always about the exact day. For some families, maybe Christmas is a big deal, for other families, like I know for my uncle and his wife, her family Christmas Eve is what's really important. So if you have certain things where it's like we don't need to meet on the exact same day but as long as it's within the timeframe of the holidays. Maybe we do something like instead of a Christmas party or a Christmas dinner, we do a New Year's Eve dinner. Or we do a Black Friday dinner instead of actually Thanksgiving. So I think it's mainly about what are the expectations and what days are really important. Because for some, they’re like the day is still the same as long as we still connect, have family, it doesn't have to be on the 24th of November. What if we do on the 28th, and what works better for everyone else?

Dr. Joy: You know, the other thing that this scenario made me think of, and you kind of talked about this too, is like creating new traditions. There are the traditions that come from my family of origins but then, like you mentioned, a lot of times once kids enter the picture, then there begins to be a reimagining of what the holidays look like. And so what kinds of thoughts or things might you offer to couples who are thinking about creating their own tradition? Let's say I want to have dinner at the house with maybe just the kids but I don't maybe want grandparents there. Like I only want it to be a nuclear family. What kinds of guidelines would you offer for making those kinds of decisions?

Jordan: I would say each partner writing what they would like, what's non-negotiable versus what has some wiggle room, and finding some middle ground, some middle area. Because maybe it's I don't want the grandparents involved, I just want us. And your partner's saying, dinner is really important, what if we have a big Christmas breakfast that's just us, and then for dinner we go to my parents’ house? What if that would be a happy compromise? So I think it's important to find a solution to that where both partners feel heard, both partners feel this is what's important to me. And then knowing yourself, what is a non-negotiable? Like these are traditions that have to be passed down versus what are some areas where I have wiggle room? And this is also why I think premarital counseling is really helpful because it allows you to think about what do we want our life to look like? How do we want to celebrate certain things? How do we want to handle these things? Before they come up and cause tension, let's think about it. Obviously, you don't necessarily know exactly how you're going to handle things until you're in the situation, but I think if there are certain values, certain traditions that you know your partner really cares about and their family really cares about, you can have that conversation even before the holidays come up.

Dr. Joy: Yeah, because ideally, you would want to have these conversations before it's time to send out the invites because then the tension and the stress does get a little higher. I appreciate you offering premarital counseling as an opportunity because I think there's a lot of misconceptions about premarital therapy. It's like if we're going to therapy already, we're doomed, kind of thing. But that is the space where you're having these kinds of conversations so that you can avoid… you just don't think about it until it's holiday time and you're like, oh, I didn't know that was important to you.

Jordan: Exactly. And even when I say premarital, I just mean pre-marriage. It doesn't even have to be that you're engaged. I know for some people they're like if we're already in therapy and we're not even engaged yet, what is it for? But to your point, it doesn't always have to be that there's a problem when you go to therapy. A lot of times, therapy can be and should be preventative. It can be conversations about how we want to handle these things, learning skills and tools, instead of going to therapy when there’s already been years of resentment, years of problems, and then it's like I don't like this person, I don't know if we want to be together. Having these discussions and thinking about it beforehand can definitely be helpful.

Obviously, when dating, I think it's you don't know until you start to get into dating seriously with that person. So if you're dating someone and this is the first time that you're meeting their family or blending families, I would just say going into it with an open experience. Dating is all about learning your partner, learning what works for you and what doesn't. So being observant, not judgmental, there's a difference. But just being open to seeing what parts of the family impacted your partner, what made them who you want to be with today, and things that you learn and things like that. I think the assumption is always there might be tension, but you'd be surprised because some families can be very open and very welcoming and you can have a lot of fun. So going in with an open mind.

Dr. Joy: This is a perfect segue into scenario number two. This one is my fiancé’s parents are flying out this holiday season to meet my parents for the first time. I'm nervous because my family doesn't have a traditional Christmas. My parents own their own business and because they work so much, we don't celebrate together like other families are accustomed to. We eat dinner at 8pm and might not open presents until 10. I want to show my future in-laws a good time, but I'm concerned that our holiday traditions won't cut it in comparison to their more traditional type of fun.

Jordan: What comes to mind is you want to show them a good time so it can be like this is how we do it over here and it's still fun. We're still doing the same things, it's just later in the day. Maybe it's like during the day, we watch movies. Or we do other stuff and then we have a late dinner and then we open the presents. Especially if there's not little kids. Usually little kids are the only ones that are waking up at the crack of dawn to open presents so if there's no little kids in the mix, it can be a very exciting like, no, it's not traditional but this is our tradition and we welcome you to it. This is something that has worked for us. Maybe explaining like this is why it has become this way. It's not that we don't care about Christmas, this is just what works for us and we invite you to have fun our way.

I know for some people, I want to say my family would sometimes do a movie day. My family loves A Christmas Story. I don't, but they do and so it's always on and things like that. So maybe it's having a movie day or doing something before the presents but giving them still a fun time. And if they're visiting, maybe it's taking them around different places in the area. I don't know where exactly they'd be going to, but a lot of places have lights or certain things that you do around Christmas time. So maybe it's we go out to dinner, we do these things late, and then once it's dark, we take a drive around and see the lights. Or we do other things where it's still just as fun, it just doesn't have to be the chronological order of what they expect.

Dr. Joy: Yeah, and I wonder if this might not be an opportunity for this couple to start some of their own traditions. Or maybe a way to incorporate some of the other family's traditions. So if they do more daytime activities, are there things that they can do in the daytime before dinner? Maybe that's like baking things or decorating something or it might be an opportunity to kind of start some new stuff or to kind of blend both of the families' traditions.

Jordan: Like maybe decorating the tree. Obviously, people might expect that the tree would be decorated before Christmas but that can be something where you frame it as we wanted this to be something we all do together so we save decorating the tree for all of us to do it. Or baking is a good one.

Dr. Joy: Decorating ornaments.

Jordan: Yeah, ornaments, gingerbread houses if you're into that. There are so many Christmas activities that you can do and so just approaching it with curiosity. But also it can be a fun experience, it doesn't have to be exactly what everyone is used to. And that's also how you can frame it: me and my fiancé, we are starting this new life together, we appreciate this aspect of our traditions on this side and we appreciate this aspect of traditions on this side, and this is our way of remixing it.

Dr. Joy: More from my conversation with Jordan after the break.


Dr. Joy: All right, our third scenario. I'm a single mother and I really want my child to be able to spend the holidays with her siblings. Her father has two other children with two different mothers and I think it would be really fun for us all to get the kids together to do something. I'm nervous because there's tension among the parents, but I want to figure out how we can blend families to make these memories for our kids.

Jordan: Oh, that's beautiful, yeah. I would say it seems like I'm imagining the tensions maybe between the moms and the dad, I don't know for sure. But if she's not feeling there's tension between her and anyone, maybe reaching out with I think this would be a great idea for the kids. I want to do this thing, I want to get all the kids together so they can celebrate. If you feel uncomfortable in this space (I'm not sure what the relationship is) but if you trust me, you can drop your kid off if you don't want to stay but I have these things planned. Or I want us to have a movie night or bake cookies or do something where the kids can spend time together. Because even though we are not with this man anymore or even though we have differences or we disagree, our children should be the priority. And we want to make sure that they feel included but also like they have each other.

And especially if she's a single mom and say it's just her and her child, you want to make sure that your child has fun things to be around. He or she is not the only child in the situation. And so that could be, I'm sure, the goal of making sure you're spending time with your siblings, you're spending time with people that are your age and it being fun. And hopefully, the moms are in agreement and I would see that as a really big effort to put differences aside and really just focus on the betterment of the kids. Because I think blended families obviously can happen, the parents just have to be able to remember that the children are the priority and not get too involved with their ego or their hurt or any feelings that come up for them.

Dr. Joy: I think I agree with you, I think that this would be a beautiful scenario if they're able to pull this off. And I see this as something happening either Christmas Eve or maybe like a day or two before. Because I would imagine everybody has their own individual families that they may want to do things with, but it could be a cool kind of yearly tradition that they get together every year two days before Christmas and have a sleepover with matching pajamas. And all the moms get together and do decorations, and they have presents that they know they open, like from each other. I think that that actually would be a beautiful kind of offering. Like you mentioned, if there's somebody, like one of the other moms where there's not tension with, could they open the invitation? This could even be a great way to ease some of that tension. Like I know there's been issues between us in the past but this almost is an olive branch, I think, of recentering the kids which should be the priority.

Jordan: And obviously, there's similarities. If you two or three have chosen to have a child but also with this one person, maybe there are certain things that you all enjoy doing with that person that maybe you have similarities. But the biggest similarity is that you all are mothers and you most likely want to prioritize your kid and make them feel like they are a part of something. I think sometimes tension comes, especially with blended families, where it can feel like this kid gets more than this kid or this person gets more. So if you focus on “I want us all to be together, I want us all to do something.” Maybe the kids have a movie night, maybe we as the moms, we have some hot chocolate or some wine (not condoning alcoholism), but you know, we do something that's just us and that we have fun and we make space for the children. Or maybe it's after Christmas and the children get to bring all their toys together and play together or something like that.

Dr. Joy: Yeah, I think that could be very cool.

Jordan: And a tradition they could keep going for sure.

Dr. Joy: All right, so one final scenario. This one says I'm spending Thanksgiving with my dad's side of the family this year. I barely know that side of the family and I'm nervous because I've always felt like my mom discouraged us from spending time with them because they're a little ratchet. However, I want to know my people, and though I'm almost 40, I still want to try. I feel crazy asking people what their names are but this is where we are. I'm embarrassed that I don't know them better.

Jordan: I think the biggest thing to do is own that. And not own it as though it's your fault but own it as, unfortunately, I didn't get the experience to grow up with you all so I do feel bad for not knowing this, but I really do want to learn now. In my opinion, it's never too late. As long as you have breath in your body and you are able to meet people and do things, it's never too late. And I think that's beautiful that you're still choosing to spend that time even if it feels awkward or uncomfortable. And ideally, hopefully they will be welcoming in the idea of it wasn't you who, as a kid, you weren't choosing what you were doing or who you're spending time with. And now you're making this choice to spend time with us and get to know us and we really appreciate it.

Obviously, I think especially in the black community, there can be the differences in how we appear, black people as a culture as a spectrum. So if she is saying or defining them as a little more ratchet, I imagine maybe she's wondering that it might feel uncomfortable or they might think that she's bougie, or snobby or whatever the case may be. And so again, with openness, with curiosity, but also just being transparent of this is how I do things or this is how I was raised and I wasn't able to meet you all or have these experiences. But I really want to have these experiences now and please tell me what I can. I know for myself sometimes, if I'm speaking with my grandparents or I'm wanting to gain family information, I'll say is it okay if I record this? I really want to remember this. Or take lots of pictures or whatever the case may be. I think going into it, obviously, you're going to be nervous, but recognizing it's not your fault. You didn't do anything wrong and you're using this opportunity to learn more and to be a part of this family and add to your extended family. And so approaching it with excitement as well.

Dr. Joy: I would add to that, if you're on Facebook, I think Facebook has a lot of downfalls but one of the upsides is I think a lot of family members are often on Facebook and so it's very possible that you can do a lot of research before you even go. Finding out who cousins are and so that may be helpful and may help you to feel a little more comfortable in the space so that you know whose name is what.

Jordan: Oh, that's a great idea.

Dr. Joy: I would also suggest maybe like finding one person that you're feeling closest to. Is there a cousin or somebody on your dad's side who you can do some prep sessions with? Okay, so I'm wanting to do more of this, tell me who this is? What's the story here? Is there any kind of drama in the background that I need to be aware of? Getting yourself ready, I think, for the situation. Because I agree with you, it wasn't necessarily her fault that she didn't grow up with them, but I think going into it with curiosity and saying I want to do this now. Maybe even apologizing. Like I'm sorry it's taken so long, but I really want to get to know you all. I think that that could be something that makes her feel more comfortable too.

Jordan: And even when he talked about if there's one person in the family, I imagine if it's her dad's side, maybe she's always had a relationship with her dad or hopefully he is more accessible and that can be the leeway of I know I haven't really been able to spend time with your side of the family but I want to get to know people more. What are some things that I should be aware of? Who is who? And that way too. So yeah, I think that's a great idea, especially the Facebook one. Between Facebook, Instagram, tagged photos, you could probably put together a family tree.

Dr. Joy: Far more is out there about us than we even want to know. You know, we talked about all of these things and how to navigate all of this, but I think it is important. Especially around the holidays, because it is also often one of the times of the year where we have a significant amount of time off for a lot of people. And so I think also thinking about how we can get in some self-care and take care of ourselves during the holidays are important. What suggestions would you have for people about how to fit time in, even if they're hosting? Let's say the whole family is coming to your house, how do you still get in some alone time? How do you sneak away so that you still have some time for yourself during all of this?

Jordan: I think a great way is (depending on the person) maybe it looks like waking up a little earlier. So before the house gets lively and everyone's awake, you have some alone time that way. Or maybe it looks like just saying, hey, I need a moment, I'm going to step away for a second. Maybe it doesn't look like how it would typically look because you have a whole bunch of guests or people in your house but maybe it's you go somewhere and listen to your favorite song or you go take a walk really quickly. Or you have a moment with your partner. Because sometimes with family in town, maybe it can feel like you and your partner are disconnected. So finding out what self-care looks like for you in that moment and what you're needing. Maybe you are just needing quiet time to be alone, but maybe you're needing to feel like me and my partner are still a team, and even though there's a whole bunch of people in our space, we have this connection and we're here. I would definitely say being transparent about it. It doesn't have to be in a “I need a break from y'all,” in a rude way or anything like that. But just, hey, I've been cooking all day, I'm going to take a second and go upstairs to rest. Or before we go out and see the Nutcracker or watch this movie, I'm going to take a moment really quickly to get ready, or something like that.

Dr. Joy: More from my conversation with Jordan after the break.


Dr. Joy: I think something else with that, is that our wellness practices often get disrupted. If we're traveling, maybe we don't have access to our gym or the equipment that we have at home. What tips or strategies would you offer for how to stay connected to our wellness practices during this time?

Jordan: I'm often the one traveling because I'm single with no kids so I have to go to everyone else and some things I know will get disrupted. Like I've been going to bar class, obviously I can't do that when I'm on vacation. But there's other parts of my wellness or my morning routine that I can do anywhere. Maybe it looks like downloading a certain app. I use the Shine app for mindfulness and to practice gratitude so even if I'm not home, I can access that. Or maybe there's something that replaces what you would normally do. If you're used to going to the gym and you don't have that outlet, maybe it looks like going for a walk. That way, you're still getting some energy, still moving your body, still getting some movement. I think tweaking what your wellness practice looks like.

It could also look like inviting others to join you. Maybe it feels like I don't have time to step away but you know what, maybe someone else wants to go for a walk with me. Maybe that can be a way to connect with an in law or connect with a family member that I'm close to and we just want some time to ourselves to talk for a bit. I would definitely say adding people in if possible, incorporating or finding some aspects of your wellness routine that can be done regardless of where you are, and prioritizing that. And switching up or making some compromises or concessions that maybe my wellness won't look the exact same but it can still bring me the same type of feelings.

Dr. Joy: Jordan, when you mentioned you're single with no kids so you're the one who's always having to travel, it made me think, at some point, you might decide that you don't want to do that. Or I think we have heard from community members who have said that they are tired of being the one hosting and they don't want to do it anymore. So they actually just want to travel during the holidays and they don't want to do any of that. What often comes up is, how do you have this conversation like with your mama and your grandma, saying that you are not coming home for Christmas? How do we have this conversation? And then I think the other part is how do you deal with the fallout of people maybe being upset or having hurt feelings?

Jordan: I haven't had to have the conversation myself yet. Because so far, I haven't necessarily minded to the point where I'd want to stop. I do think that it's a conversation of, hey, it gets exhausting. Or maybe offering some alternatives. I'm tired, I can't afford to travel. Prices have been very expensive so maybe it's either I can't afford or I just simply don't want to and that's a reason enough. What would it be like for you all to come visit me instead? Or what would it be like if I come two weeks later and we do something else then, but for this holiday, I just want time to myself. Or I want to spend time with friends. Or a lot of people, like you said, they want to travel to an island or be on a beach because it's cold in November and December. So maybe it's a conversation of I really enjoy spending time with you all and I love this family, and while that's true, I also need a break and this is the only time I can do it because this is when most people take time off, and this is what it may look like. Maybe we can still create some family traditions, we can still speak on FaceTime, I'll still be there for us to have our conversations, but I'm physically exhausted from always being the one that is expected to make the concessions or to make the changes.

If you are the one that's always hosting, then it can be like, hey, let's pass the baton. Why don't we switch it up? Why don't we rotate? Maybe there are siblings and I usually host. What if my sister hosts this year and then next year my brother hosts and then the year after that it’s back to me? Or what if we switch it around and make it a little more fun where it's not always the pressure on me because I will burn out? Would you rather me be bitter and angry and resentful when we're having a family dinner, and miserable? Or would you rather just pause and reset, refigure what our traditions are gonna look like?

Dr. Joy: I think that is important because I think we get so stuck in the rut of just doing what we've always done and we don't stop to think like, hey, I actually don't have to do this anymore if I don't want to. I think it's an important thing to consider.

Jordan: For sure. And the fallout, there may be some. Because people, especially grandmas, tend to want things the way they want, they want to see their grandbabies, they want things how they want them. And just recognizing, hopefully, your family can take the tradition and the expectations aside and hear that you're in a sense crying out for help. Like I cannot do this anymore, I don't have the capacity to, and I know that this maybe messes up what we're used to, but I need this break in order for us to keep flowing and functioning well as a family.

Dr. Joy: What do you think that nonblack family members can do to support the black women and girls in their lives during this holiday season?

Jordan: I think be understanding, and it might be difficult to be understanding, but recognize that there are added pressures that we as black women face. Especially if we're moms, but especially if we're also single, and especially if we're the oldest daughter or the oldest in the family, there are just added pressures where people expect us to do it all. And maybe as the nonblack partner or as a partner observing first year, you can just see, but then validate us and let us know, you're not crazy for feeling this way. I see that your family members are putting a lot of pressure on you or I noticed that this is happening, this must be really hard for you, is there anything that I can do to help you? Would you want me to respond to these invites? Would you want me to help you make the food so that you're not doing it yourself? Just finding a way where you can be a helping hand. And also a space for them to vent and complain because, again, there's this expectation that everyone should be just happy and excited about the holidays and when you are faced with a lot of the pressure and a lot of the planning and a lot of the making sure stuff gets done, it's hard to do that. And you may just need someone to let you be mad and cry it out for a second and to hug you and provide you that comfort. And also let you know, hey, you're doing a good job, or I see you or I see all that you're doing.

Dr. Joy: Thank you for that. You mentioned earlier that you like to sometimes record conversations, like when you're talking to elders in the family. And I think that that's such a beautiful idea, especially around the holidays, because that's often when a lot of us are together. What other kinds of things would you suggest for people or that you hope people don't lose sight of as they are gathering with family this holiday season?

Jordan: I think the biggest one is obviously, especially with COVID, life is short. And that what's most important is the time that we are spending—not always about the gifts, not always about who cooked what. That is important, but focusing on really just the time that we're spending. I'm really big on capturing memories and moments so I take a lot of pictures or record a lot of videos or voice notes because I'm really close with all four of my grandparents and it's been a huge blessing to have all four of them still and so I try to make sure I'm not taking that for granted. Maybe it looks like making sure that you're not taking your siblings for granted or your parents for granted because anything can happen at any moment. And really focusing on we have this time that we spend together, let's be present. Let's try to maybe put our phones down, let's try to maybe not focus solely on TV. Or if we're going to focus on the TV, it's like a movie or something that we all picked out to watch together. I think another big thing, again especially with COVID, we probably missed physical touch and hugs and being able to see a family member and hold them and spend time with them in that way too. And so really cherishing that I think is really important as well.

Dr. Joy: Yeah, really just being present. I think you said it beautifully there. Jordan, where can we stay connected with you? What is your website as well as any social media handles you'd like to share?

Jordan: My website is You can also find me on the Therapy for Black Girls website because I am an author so I have a nice little page of all the articles that I've written. And my social media is @TherapyIsMyJam on Instagram and Twitter.

Dr. Joy: Perfect. We'll be sure to include all of that in the show notes. Thank you so much for spending some time with us today, Jordan, I appreciate it.

Jordan: No problem. It was my pleasure, thanks so much for having me.

Dr. Joy: I'm so glad Jordan was able to share her expertise with us today. To learn more about her and her work, visit the show notes at And don't forget to text two of your girls and tell them to check out the episode right now. If you're looking for a therapist in your area, check out our therapist directory at

And if you want to continue digging into this topic or just be in community with other sisters, come on over and join us in the Sister Circle. It's our cozy corner of the internet designed just for black women. You can join us at This episode was produced by Fredia Lucas and Ellice Ellis, and editing was done by Dennison Bradford. Thank y’all so much for joining me again this week. I look forward to continuing this conversation with you all real soon. Take good care.


Discover the transformative power of healing in community in Dr. Joy Harden Bradford’s debut book, Sisterhood Heals. Order your copy now!

Sisterhood heals
Order Now

Looking for the UK Edition?
Order here

Discover the transformative power of healing in community in Dr. Joy Harden Bradford’s debut book, Sisterhood Heals. Order your copy now!

Looking for the UK Edition? Order here