A grueling week of finals lies ahead, but after this last fight of the semester we will finally be free for the winter break. But just beyond the looming tests, daunting essays and massive projects, three weeks away from the torment of scholarly life.

Cultural norms dictate a holiday atmosphere of quality time spent with family and loved ones. If students are from Utah, they typically go home over the winter break or visit their families more frequently. If students are from farther away, they go spend a week or two with their families while school is not in session. For many, the break will be filled with holiday celebrations, food, winter activities and family gatherings. There is a belief that the time spent away from school should be spent with relatives, catching up with one another and showering each other with love and affection.

The ideal vision of a loving and warm family is not always a reality. Families can be difficult, stressful and annoying, but there are more serious problems that go unrecognized. When emphasizing the values of family time and blood bonds, the very real concerns of abuse, intolerance and rejection are often ignored, silenced or overlooked.

Some people get along well with their families. Some do not, and may have very good reason for that. Families can be mentally, physically or emotionally abusive. These kinds of relationships are toxic and have a serious negative impact on people, which may last a lifetime.

If someone chooses not to spend time with their family, especially during the holiday season, they are met with pressure and stigma from others who do not understand the situation. If someone avoids family time or cuts down on how long they stay at “home” they are potentially seen as selfish, troublesome or unloving. If they try to explain themselves and the situation, peers laugh it off and say things like, “Everyone has a difficult family!” or “You’re related, you have to love each other!” This isolates and invalidates individuals who are going through more serious and damaging family situations. It reinforces mistaken beliefs that people are just overreacting, or that an abusive family situation is normal and okay.

When a situation or relationship turns toxic, it is important to remove yourself. Even relationships with family, friends or other loved ones can be unhealthy. These are difficult to escape, especially when surrounded by the strong cultural pressures of the holiday season. It is crucial to recognize that your own mental, emotional and physical safety come first. If that means you need to cut down on or eliminate family time from your life and winter break, then do it.

You are the most important person in your life. When a stranger treats you badly, you leave. When a friend treats you badly, you remove them from your life. When there is a problem with blood ties, this should be no different. If your family is creating excessive amounts of stress or pain in your life, it is time to let them go. Your own self worth and health are much more valuable. You should never feel bad for protecting yourself.


Shaelyn is a fourth year at the University of Utah studying Political Science and Journalism in the hopes that someday she can be a travel writer. She is especially passionate about social justice, LGBTQ+ rights, women's rights, and mental health awareness. In her (very rare) free time she loves to hike, paint, and read.


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