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How to Answer Awkward Holiday Questions

Asked by on with 1 answer:

I have a question that Google/Bing can’t answer. I was abandoned at the age of 4 and adopted by horrific, abusive parents (I have complex PTSD, among other issues). Although my abusive adoptive father died many years ago, I have been estranged from my also abusive adoptive mother for over 10 years (at the advice of psychologists and psychiatrists).

EVERY YEAR, I have to field questions of “Are you going home for the holidays, where is home, where is your family at, etc.?” I never know how to answer this, as I hide my trauma quite well. Any suggestions on how to answer these questions and how to deal with the triggers?  Thanks. (age 50, from the US)

How to Answer Awkward Holiday Questions

Answered by on -


Thanks for your question. I’m sorry if my answer comes after the holidays are over, but hopefully it will help for next year. I’m also sorry that you had such a difficult childhood.

It’s important to understand that the people asking are just trying to be nice and have no idea that their questions are triggering you. How you respond really comes down to what you are comfortable with, and one thing to keep in mind is that just because a question is asked, it doesn’t have to be answered. You have several options. You can work on becoming an expert on subtly changing the subject or deflecting the question back to them. You can quickly excuse yourself saying there is something you forgot to take care of … and so forth. But you can also answer the question honestly. You can say things such as: “not this year,” “I don’t have contact with my family,” or “we aren’t close.” If you get follow up questions just say that you don’t want to get into right now.

You are in control of your information. You decide what to share and who to share it with. It might be quite empowering and healing to speak the truth. People don’t need a lengthy dissertation on your family history, but raising society’s awareness of abuse is never a bad thing.

Finally, I would suggest that you role play different responses with your therapist, or a close friend, and come up with one that feels good that can become your “go to” response.

All the best,

Dr. Holly Counts

How to Answer Awkward Holiday Questions

Therapists live, online right now, from BetterHelp:

Holly Counts, Psy.D.

Dr. Holly Counts is a licensed Clinical Psychologist. She utilizes a mind, body and spirit approach to healing. Dr. Counts received her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Wright State University and her Masters and Doctoral degrees in Clinical Psychology from Nova Southeastern University. Dr. Counts has worked in a variety of settings and has specialized in trauma and abuse, relationship issues, health psychology, women’s issues, adolescence, GLBT, life transitions and grief counseling. She has specialty training in guided imagery, EMDR, EFT, hypnosis and using intuition to heal. Her current passion involves integrating holistic and alternative approaches to health and healing with psychology.

APA Reference
Counts, H. (2018). How to Answer Awkward Holiday Questions. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 29, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 May 2018 (Originally: 8 Feb 2015)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018
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