While the holidays are often noted for being the happiest times of the year, they also come with a lot of expectations and mixed emotions for many. It's like expecting the creamiest dark chocolate hot cocoa and instead taking a sip of watery instant mix… just a little disappointing. Personally, many festive evenings have turned into crying alone on the couch. There's an undercurrent of sadness or anxiety around this time of year that many of us feel. Over the years, I've tried so many different things to shake that feeling. Everything from spending it with family, friends, alone, and now that I'm a new mom, I decided it was time to create some new family traditions to heal conflict through the holidays (oh and learn to make an actually amazing cup of creamy dark chocolate hot cocoa!!).
5 Tips For New Family Traditions That Heal Conflict Through The Holidays [+ A Creamy Dark Chocolate Hot Cocoa Recipe!]
Go in with an open mind
Expectations are the killjoy of the holidays in my opinion. Personally, I've gone into a holiday thinking it would be just like a Hallmark movie, only to feel disappointed by the quieter reality. This brought up feelings of loneliness or not being good enough. On the flip side, I've gone into a holiday with very low expectations… so low in fact they became a negative self fulfilling prophecy. For instance, I expected to feel triggered by a negative statement from family, then when it happened, I used that as an excuse to have a bad time. Do yourself a favor and go in with an open mind. When you approach situations with a sense of curiosity and openness, you create space for pleasant surprises.
To “square up” actually means to settle a misunderstanding! Listen, we are all human and set out with the best of intentions, but sometimes things can go a little sideways. I think a lot of us were raised to brush things under the rug, pretend like we aren't upset, and move forward. The problem with ignoring the elephant in the room is that things tend to build until someone explodes, or people start to make passive aggressive comments (that bottled anger has to go somewhere after all).
My challenge to you, is do something different. Grab a Ritter Sport Chocolate and bring the misunderstood parties together for a little heart to heart over some chocolate. In fact, Ritter Sport is 100% family owned and they are known for their iconic square shape, so they are kind of the perfect chocolate bar to bring to the table on this one! Their new line of single origin chocolates are produced from fine, sustainably farmed cacao.
The new line includes:
The 55% Cacao Selection – deliciously smooth milky chocolate with a dark chocolate twist made with single origin cacao from Ghana.
The 61% Cacao Selection is a scrumptious dark chocolate made from single origin cacao from Nicaragua offering nutty notes.
The 74% Cacao Selection is intensely delicious with fine, fruity, spicy notes. Produced from single origin Peruvian cacao.
Plus dark chocolate has been shown to increase dopamine levels in the brain! Dopamine is the feel-good brain chemical that has also been known to decrease feelings of anxiety and depression.
Brew a creamy dark chocolate hot cocoa (recipe below!)
A well known conflict resolution technique is to go for a walk while having a challenging conversation. Since many folks are snowed in this time of year, my suggestion is to brew a cup of hot chocolate together. When we do things together, whether it's a walk or making hot chocolate, we feel like we are on the same team, versus sitting across from one another as opposing forces.
Make your delicious hot chocolate with Ritter Sport 74% cacao selection. This is especially great for those who may not love the dark chocolate taste. Personally, when I was a kid, I hated it; but as an adult, it's my preference, so things change, but my love for hot chocolate has always remained the same! One person can get the milk boiling while the other chops the chocolate so it melts faster and more evenly in the pot! PRO TIP: Add extra whipping cream for an even creamier finish!
Check out my full hot chocolate recipe below!!
Speak up & Clarify
Similar to expectations ruining the holidays, our perceptions can too. Recently, I had an experience where a family member made a passive aggressive remark towards me because something didn't meet her expectations. Rather than sitting back and internalizing it like I would in the past, I decided to speak up and ask the clarifying question: “was that passive aggressive?” She was stunned by the question and immediately noted her wrong and back peddled to explain her behavior.
This felt like a huge win for me personally. In the past I'd sit back and act as the dumping ground for my family's emotions. Taking each one in and assuming it as my fault. This led to a lot of depression, anxiety, and lowered sense of self worth. By asking the clarifying question about the intention of the behavior, it gave the person a moment to reflect and respond however they chose (most people don't intend to be passive aggressive, so it's a softer way to approach the situation than accusing them).
Why I love this approach:
I grew up in a family where people wouldn't speak to one another for 5+ years at a time. Over the years, I've witnessed how avoidance does not equate to healing generational trauma and pain. A few years ago I heard an interview that always stuck with me that said something along the lines of: we may not disagree with everything our family does, but the only way to be a part of the change is to actually be a part of the family. You won't change them by never seeing or talking to them.
That forced me to take a hard look at my own behavior. I was falling into the very pattern I so desperately wanted to heal. I spent a few years after that interview, working on myself so I felt strong enough to re-enter my family in a way that I could speak up in a non-bias or accusatory way rather than falling back into old coping habits.
This practice has been doing wonders for myself and my family.
I no longer internalize and blame myself for everything, and we have an opportunity to change the dynamics. I really want people to go back and re-read that because over the years since writing this post on my fears about having kids, I've received SO many emails from readers who related and are not talking to their family in hopes the family will change by the silent treatment; or when the family sees what they are missing out on when the baby comes they'll magically change.
I am living proof to tell you, that people rarely change when we give them the silent treatment. In fact, often times, it just pushes them deeper into a victim mindset and they end up avoiding taking responsibility for their role in the discord. We all play a role in conflict, no one is perfect, and we all make mistakes and wish we could've handled things better. We are all teachers for one another. My family is teaching me to speak up and use my voice. To have more confidence in myself, and I am teaching them to be less reactionary and lashing out at others when their childhood wounds feel poked or their expectations feel threatened.
So set out a tray of Ritter Sport, or brew up some hot chocolate, and create some new family traditions this year. One's where you heal conflict and wounds rather than avoiding them.
GIVEAWAY: Don't forget to check out my Instagram where we are doing an awesome chocolate samplers giveaway with 5 WINNERS! You can find all the details here!
Creamiest Dark Chocolate Hot Cocoa with Ritter Sport
- 1 1/2 cups milk (I use almond, for creamier use whole milk)
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 2 teaspoons sugar (brown, powdered, or coconut)
- Pinch of cinnamon (to taste) - optional
- 7 ounces Ritter Sport Intense (74%) or Fine (61%) chocolate
- Marshmallows (for serving) - optional
- Whipped cream (for serving) - optional
Over medium heat, in a medium saucepan, whisk milk, heavy cream, sugar, and cinnamon until it starts to bubble a little around the edges. Do not bring it to a full boil!
While the mixture is warming, roughly chop the Ritter Sport chocolate.
Once the mixture is bubbling just a little, remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in your chopped chocolate until it's fully melted. If needed: return the saucepan to the stovetop on low heat to melt the chocolate completely. Make sure to constantly whisk/stir.
Once the chocolate is fully melted, serve warm topped with whipped cream or marshmallows!
***Dark chocolate can taste a little intense for some people, simply add extra milk to taste and heat more ***Never make hot cocoa with chocolate chips! Always use a real chocolate bar like Ritter Sport! Chocolate chips just don't melt properly for this. ***If you have extra, let it cool to room temperature before pouring into a glass jar and sealing it airtight. You can reheat in the microwave or in a saucepan. Just do it slowly so you don't burn the chocolate