How to Tell Your Parents You Won't Be Home for the Holidays

Published September 21, 2022
Young woman texting near decorated Christmas tree

Fall is in the air and the holiday season is approaching. You have your decorations ready, you promised to start shopping for presents early this year, and you're planning out the perfect holiday cards to mail. Then, your parents call you and ask what days you're going to be coming home for the holidays.

Time freezes. A mirror shatters. Your mouth goes dry as you search for the words, "I'm not coming home this year." You've planned everything for your own celebrations this year, but haven't figured out how to tell your parents you're not coming home for the holidays. Whether you're not going home for Christmas, Thanksgiving, or another holiday get-together, it can be tricky to navigate this situation - but you can look to this guide to give you the tips and encouragement you need.

Be Confident in Telling Your Parents You're Not Coming Home for the Holidays

Odds are that you aren't looking forward to telling your parents that you won't be spending the holidays with them this year. You might be worried that it will cause an argument, make your parents feel like you don't care about them, or that it could potentially dim the magic of the holiday season.

However, you deserve to celebrate the holidays the way you want. That means that you're allowed to make whatever holiday plans feel right, even if that means you're shaking up some traditions. Be confident in relaying your decision and don't let the fear of upsetting your parents stop you from having the holiday celebration you want. Your parents love you and care about you, and, at the end of the day, they want you to be happy (even if that means spending the holidays apart).

Let Your Family Down Gently

Senior mother and adult daughter having coffee on front porch

You might feel like there's no perfect way to tell your parents that you won't be coming home. And, the truth is that you're probably right. However, just because there isn't a perfect way, it doesn't mean that there aren't things to keep in mind that might just make it all a bit easier.

If you live near your family and occasionally pop over to their house, maybe consider telling them in person during one of your visits. If you live a bit farther away, it's okay to make a phone call. Either way, don't try to squeeze the news in at the end of the conversation. Make sure you have enough time to bring up the subject and check in with your parents afterward.

Examples of How to Tell Your Parents You're Not Coming Home for the Holidays

Whether it's in person or by phone, knowing the right words to use when deciding how to tell family you're not coming for Christmas, Thanksgiving, or other holidays is challenging. Some examples of things to say to break the news to your parents are:

  • Hey, I just wanted to let you know that I won't be able to come home for the holidays this year because (insert simple explanation here).
  • I know you were looking forward to getting together over the holidays, but I wanted to try something different this year, so I will be (insert what you will be doing/where you will be).
  • I love you, and I love spending time with you, but this year for the holidays I have planned to (insert explanation) so I won't be able to make it home.
  • I know that we usually spend the holidays together, but this year I was planning on (insert event you were planning).
  • I wanted to do something special for the holidays this year, so I have planned to (insert planned celebration) which means that I won't be able to come home.

Give Your Parents a Simple Explanation

When you tell your parents that you won't be able to partake in their holiday celebrations this year, give them a simple explanation as to why. For example, maybe you got invited to celebrate with friends that you haven't seen in a long time, or maybe you found low-priced tickets to a great destination.

This can help your parents see things from your perspective and allow them to better understand why you won't be there. And, it can put any potential negative thoughts or worries to rest about why you won't be spending the holidays with them.

Tell Family as Soon as Possible (and Then Keep Reminding Them)

It's perfectly normal to want to put off this conversation for as long as possible, but try to fight the urge to procrastinate telling your parents that you won't be coming home. The sooner you tell them, the more time they have to adjust to the idea before the holiday arrives. However, if you try your best and still end up telling them a week or beforehand, that's okay, too. After all, life happens.

Once you tell them you're not going home for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or another holiday celebration, it can be helpful to keep reminding them, too. This way you can make sure that you are all on the same page, and that they don't get their hopes up that maybe you'll surprise them the day of and walk through their front doors like they secretly hope. In addition, the reminders can make it clear to them that this is a plan you have set in place and a boundary they'll have to respect.

Invite Them to Your Gathering if It's Possible

Sure, you might not be able to head home for the holidays this year, but that might not mean that your parents can't celebrate with you. If you are headed to a destination holiday, hosting a party at your house, or attending an event with close friends, you might be able to invite your family to the celebrations. This way, your family can still spend time with you over the holidays, it'll just look a little different than what they're used to.

However, it's not always a possibility to include your parents in your new holiday plans. For example, maybe you just want a quiet holiday at home with just yourself, your partner, kids, or pets. Or, maybe you were hoping your destination holiday would be a bonding time for your nuclear family.

In these cases, don't feel pressured to invite your parents. You deserve alone time to relax, unwind, and celebrate however you want. But, if you want your parents along for the ride, go ahead and extend an invitation.

Plan a Different Event to Celebrate With Family

Just because you can't spend one holiday with your family, it doesn't mean that you won't be able to see them ever again. In fact, you might even be able to see them on the next holiday that comes up. Check in with your parents and see what they have planned for other celebrations and see if you can make it home to join in the festivities with them then.

Also, you can spend quality time with your parents at any point throughout the year. Even if the holiday season comes and goes and you aren't able to make it home, it's okay. You can plan to visit them at a different time that works better with your schedule.

Give Your Parents Space if They Need It

Once you decide how to tell your parents you're not coming home for the holidays, they might react in a variety of different ways. If you're lucky, they'll accept your decision and shower you with positive words to reaffirm your choices. However, there's also a possibility that parents might become sad or angry when they hear the news.

If this is the case, give them some time to cool off before you call them to check in. Remember, though, that just because they're upset you won't be present for the holidays doesn't mean that you have to change your plans.

Be firm in your decision and make it clear to your parents that you're going to follow through with your plans. Let them know that you understand why they are upset, but that your wants and needs matter, too.

Reach Out to Them on the Holiday

Virtual selfie with their Grandparents for Christmas

Your parents might be sad that you aren't coming home for the holidays because they won't get to spend the special event with you. But thanks to technology, that's not necessarily true. With the press of a button, you're only one phone or video call away from your loved ones.

If you feel up to it, ask your parents if you can call them on the day of the holiday to wish them a happy celebration. You can even make it a video call so they can see your smiling face and all the festive fun you're having. It just might make you - and them - feel a bit closer to each other during the holidays.

Celebrate the Holidays However You Want

When you tell your parents that you aren't coming home for the holidays, it might feel like it's the end of the world. Take a deep breath, calm your nerves, and stand by your decision. In the grand scheme of things, there are plenty of other holidays, dinners, and birthdays that you will celebrate with your loved ones, and you can even remind them of all of these other opportunities.

Remember to be gentle with your parent's feelings. After all, they care about you a lot, and it's only normal to want to spend the holidays with the people they love the most. With a bit of conversation, you both can find common ground this holiday season to spread some love and connect (even if it isn't in person).

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How to Tell Your Parents You Won't Be Home for the Holidays