This season’s holidays center around joyful times with family as well as marking an end of another year gone by. For many people, this time of year is strenuous, but for people that are still grappling with their past of Childhood Domestic Violence (CDV), it can be stressful and triggering. The holidays often bring up memories of childhood trauma and the family they wished they had. Even for CDV survivors who raise their own families, CDV can still have an impact on how they manage and react at this time of year.  

But the Holidays can be better for everyone. By looking at some coping strategies you can use as well as some new perspective through awareness of CDV, you can get through the holiday season with less dread and more positive forward momentum you can carry with you into the New year.  

Some Quick CDV Background

CDV is considered an adverse childhood experience (ACE). It is the least known but can have the same level of impact as all other ACEs, and it often co-occurs alongside others. You may not have been the one suffering physical or verbal abuse, but you heard it, saw it, and experienced all the pain in that household. You lived with guilt, shame, loneliness, anger and more, giving you a rough start to finding happiness as an adult.   

The impact of that childhood trauma can shape who you have become as an adult. As CDV can negatively rewire the brain and therefore your belief system, it can take hold of all areas of your life – physical, mental, behavioral, and relational. The impact can be life-long and impact your overall well-being and happiness.

The impact CDV has had on your life can be reversed

There is hope though. The brain can unlearn what it has learned from childhood. Yes, the younger the brain, the more elastic it can be, but it is never too late for any age to learn and change the mindset – by learning about the Truths and Lies of CDV. This holiday season is where you can start to change your perspective – quite literally shifting your brain patterns, potentially improving your overall well-being and mental health.

Coping Strategies for CDV Survivors

To get through the holidays, whether you have your own family now, or not, the most important thing to focus on is you. This can certainly seem selfish if you are also dealing with your own family as well as your childhood family. Yet, it must be the root of all other coping strategies to ensure that you will come through this holiday season with far less to dread and more to look forward to.

  • Coping success starts with you
    • Take part of this season to face the emotions that arise from your experience with CDV. As painful as this may be, it is a coping mechanism that can help to move forward with a different perspective. A little time to grieve may provide a release to connect better with your future self and to connect with others. 
    • Do things you want to do and keep yourself busy this holiday season. Connecting with physical health through nature is often said to be healing for the mind as well. Keep your brain healthy and read, or research topics you never seem to have time for online. Buy a puzzle and spend some time each night completing it. If holiday decorating is too triggering, but you need some warmth and festivity, decorate how you want – light some candles, whatever makes you feel a warmth around you.  
    • Build your awareness of what CDV is and how it has impacted you:
          • Those that grew up with CDV often think they are alone and are weak willed if they ask for help. This is not true – at this point if you are in doubt, go back and visit the lies of CDV .
          • Know that you have a gift, one hard earned from a life of CDV. What is born from this childhood adversity is a greater inner strength, the capacity to be resilient and an intuitive compassion for others. Take some of this holiday to realize your great potential to change your life and realize your hope.
  • Coping with your CDV family members

There may be times where the best course of action is not to partake in family occasions. This may be difficult if you have children, and the idea of grandparents is important to them. As difficult as this could be for your family, the decision to cut off family can be wise. It is a decision that is very hard to bear but if these family members are still abusive in any way and not able to accept who you are as an adult, that toxic environment could also influence your children. 

If there is still a need for contact, then boundaries and limitations must be set. Be prepared for the stress level you will experience and be prepared to leave at a set time. As much as you may crave having family to stay in touch with, if they were not supportive and caring of you as a child, nor as an adult, then you may want to spend more of your holiday time elsewhere.

Implement a support system for yourself, especially if you must face family members that you grew up with where you experienced domestic violence. If you plan to spend the holidays alone, these strategies can also help:

      • Arrange some therapy sessions before or after the holidays
      • Ask anyone that is supportive of you if they can make time during their holidays for quick phone calls (5-10 minutes). This will inconvenience those people minimally but bolster your well-being throughout the holidays.

Remember if you have your own children, you are the one that has broken the generational violence that is so common for many families that experience domestic violence. Take the holidays to celebrate yourself. You are making tough decisions to keep your children from falling under toxic influences. Be the greatest supporter of their wellbeing, so they don’t experience what you had growing up.

  • Create your own new traditions and connect with others

It is hard to let go of family members, even those that are toxic to your health, but the void can be filled. If the idea of being alone this holiday season is not an action you want to take, use this holiday season to create new traditions. Consider new ways to connect with others – those you know or even don’t know:

      • Friends or neighbors that may also be alone and attend your gathering 
      • Other family members you did not grow up with
      • Support groups on social media, online, or in person locally
      • Local charities where you can create a new holiday tradition of helping others

Beyond the Holidays and into 2024

The Childhood Domestic Violence Association is here to help you cope with CDV. Continue to practice the coping strategies you put into practice. Find out more about the brain’s association with CDV and how you can discover the Truths and Lies of CDV, which can forever change your outlook on living a happier life after CDV. 

Connect with us on social channels and subscribe to our newsletter. You will see that you are not alone – there are millions of adults like yourself grappling with CDV – we want to find as many as we can!