How to Help Clients Who Hate the Holidays

Beverly Flaxington

Beverly Flaxington is a practice management consultant. She answers questions from advisors facing human resource issues. To submit yours, email us here.

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Dear Bev,

I read an article you had written about anxiety and depression at the holidays. I deal with a number of clients who are very wealthy but are miserable around the holidays. Some are older and don’t have family members who see them, others are miserly and don’t feel they should use their money for gifts for people they don’t like. The conversation actually comes up with many of them every year, and I want to be prepared this year. Any ideas or tips?

Gregory T, New York

Dear Gregory,

Are you asking how you can support and encourage the clients, or whether you should provide ideas for holiday gifts? I always have ideas for gifting! Check out – one of my favorite sites for unique gifts.

On a more serious note, this is a significant problem for many people – even those with a great deal of money. Holidays bring up many emotional feelings and connections, and the holiday period can prove emotionally debilitating over many weeks. Some people have significant anxiety and depression. If you are interacting with clients whom you suspect of having either or both, you could definitely take some steps to help them.

First of all, make sure you manage your own reactions. Take stock of whether the holidays bring up any bad feelings for you. To help a client through, you need to be emotionally healthy.

If you have noticed a pattern in a client’s behavior, don’t shy away from bringing it up. Say something like, “In the past, I’ve noticed (or you have expressed) negative feelings around the holidays – can we talk about this year before the holidays come? I have some ideas for some better ways to help you through.” You are showing the client that you recognize their pain and you care about them as a human being.

Talk to your clients about positive action steps they could take. Are they gifting money to a worthy cause? Could they donate a bit of time to a local shelter to help wrap donated gifts? Are there churches or synagogues in their area that they could spend a holiday at? It might help to brainstorm with them, in advance of this holiday season, how to work through it in better emotional health.

If it is appropriate, perhaps invite them to a holiday party your office is having – or consider throwing an event for your clients. Or if your office is involved in some volunteer effort, like donating to Toys for Tots or helping out at a homeless shelter, involve the clients who need a distraction. You might be able to proactively help spread the holiday cheer.