Family reunions during the Lunar New Year holiday are often causes of significant stress among Koreans, mainly due to sniping from relatives.
Psychologists say too much communication can be as harmful as not enough. Lee Ho-seon, a counselor for senior citizens, said, “It’s a myth that family members should talk to each other a lot and openly, whereas in fact many have little communication between themselves.”
As the older generation becomes less authoritarian, the whole framework of family gatherings is changing.
“In the past, tradition dictated that families gather during the holidays even though relations are frayed,” Lee said. “But even the older generation nowadays increasingly feel it’s better to avoid family gatherings if there are tensions.”
Psychologists also say people need to realize that they do not need to know every little detail about each other’s lives and give each other some space.
“Many people assume it’s OK to say certain things to their relatives since they think they know everything about them,” said Hong Na-rae at Hallym University Medical Center. “But the truth is they often don’t know much and live quite separate lives.”
And Lee Dong-woo at Sanggye Paik Hospital added, “We’re polite to strangers, but in the family we think we can be frank, and that causes problems.”
Counselor Park Sang-hee points out that for sufferers from depression the Lunar New Year holiday can be often the worst time.
It is better to keep things light and general, and avoid touchy subjects like school grades, employment, marriage plans or if a childless couple are planning to have a baby.
If such topics are to be raised, make supportive comments instead, and remind people who are going through a tough time of their past achievements.