Karamo Brown Has the Secret to Managing Holiday Stress & Interfering Grandparents

Sabrina Rojas Weiss
·7 min read

We know Queer Eye‘s Karamo Brown for his insight into people and their relationships with each other — and his ability to make people open up and cry minutes after meeting them. When the writer, therapist, podcast host, and single dad spoke to SheKnows this week, we managed to hold it together, mostly, as he shared the news that he’s actually giving more than just his wise words to people this holiday season.

Brown is hosting his own Holiday Spectacular on Thursday, December 17, at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT, on Instagram Live. While he’ll have some celebratory elements, special guests, and holiday tips, the highlight of the show will be him giving, in partnership with Zelle, $25,000 to three people who have given back to their communities this year.

Brown’s own holidays will be different this year, considering the pandemic, the fact that both of his sons now in their 20s, and following his breakup from his partner of 10 years over the summer. He spoke to us about his pared-down plans, his advice for parents during this season, and whether we can hope to see a sequel to the children’s book I Am Perfectly Designed, with son Jason “Rachel” Brown.

SheKnows: Karamo, I have been dying to ask you a question I’ve had all year: How do you ask and answer the formerly just polite question of “How are you?”

Karamo Brown: I do it honestly every single time. Sometimes we get into this place in our space where we feel as if we can’t share how we’re truly feeling. It’s a problem of our society, people will say, “Oh, I’m feeling OK; I’m feeling fine,” and there’s usually no follow up to that. And then when we do feel a little down, we’ll share it, but then we start feeling guilty and wonder, “Oh, am I making the room weird?” So, I think the responsibility is not just on how we answer that question. I think it’s about all of us to reframe how do we respond to those questions, so when someone says, I’m not feeling OK, you say, “Oh my gosh, what’s wrong?” That’s another response. When someone says, I’m OK or I’m fine, your normal response should be, “Oh, OK, what’s going on? What’s making you OK?”

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It sounds odd because it’s not something we practice. But I think if we practice it more, it’ll give more people permission to be honest about how they’re feeling. I’m feeling OK today and I’m feeling OK because of the fact that I had a good night’s rest. I had some breakfast this morning … things of that nature.

SK: That’s very good to hear! Do you normally feel OK around the holidays?

KB: Yeah, I’m not one of those people’s who’s super down or stressed during the holidays, because I know how to manage the stress. You’re not going to make me feel bad and make me feel like I have to run to malls and go broke during the holidays for whatever reason. I’m not falling for it. I really understand that the true meaning of the holidays is about connection and telling others how much they mean to me. If we get a gift, if I get a gift, great. But it’s not about that. It’s about how you sit in the moments decorating. How you sit in the moment when you finish decorating, sitting in your house and enjoying the accomplishments and the lights. How are you connecting with yourself? How are you connecting with those you love? That’s what the holidays are for me. And when you put it in that perspective, you’re not that stressed.

SK: What is this Holiday Spectacular that you’re doing?

KB: Now we’re in a time in the pandemic where a lot of people have lost their jobs or are in need, and a lot of aren’t able or willing to ask for help because people make you feel bad sometimes when you ask for help, which really sucks about our society. So I partnered with Zelle to give away $25,000 to three lucky people. The only requirement was that they have to share why they need money, but also show me that they’ve been trying to be nice to other people, send cheer to other people during the year. Because one of the things I know about myself is even when I am in my hardships, I still have the capacity to help others in some way, form, or fashion. And so I’ll be giving away the money live on Instagram Live and I’m super excited about it. There’s going to be some great special guests. And if you like Queer Eye, you’re going to love this Holiday Spectacular.

SK: Do you have any other plans for how you’re going to celebrate your holidays this year with your sons?

KB: I’ll be here in the in the house. I was thinking about traveling, but I’m not sure. I’m not doing any big gatherings. I take COVID very seriously. I wish the rest of our country would.

SK: Do you have any advice for parents on setting boundaries with their own parents during the holidays? Many of us want to be able to tell our parents and in-laws not to spoil our kids — without sounding mean.

KB: When we think about our parents and how we confront or communicate with them, we attach these feelings of guilt, of, “Oh, my gosh, I can’t because it might come across disrespectful. I can’t do this.” And what do you have to understand is that you’ve got to release those things, because your intention is to do the best for your child. So having clear and consistent conversations with your parents about what is going to be happening in your house is so important.

And then also, once you’ve had those clear conversations with them, talk to your kids about what boundaries you’ve set with your parents. Because what I think happens is that a lot of parents will say, “Mom and Dad, I don’t want you giving this to the kids. I don’t want you doing that. I don’t want you giving them this treat.” And then the parents will be like, “I’m a grandparent; I’m still going to do it.” Then what happens is that the kid feels like, “Oh, my gosh, yay!” And then parents don’t really say anything because they don’t want to “ruin” the child’s celebration. That’s the wrong behavior. After you set the boundary with your parents, tell your kids the boundaries. So that way you’re also teaching your kids how to be respectful, how to be mindful. Then after the grandparents don’t follow the boundaries, you can say, “Hey, son or daughter, we talked about this. What is the boundary I told you that we should be respecting this year?” And allow them to be a part of the conversation of saying, “Oh, Grandma, Grandpa, I will not be able to …” It allows them to understand, “I have to respect rules; I have to respect these boundaries,” and then also takes some of the pressure off you of feeling like the bad guy all the time.

SK: Are you and your son Jason going to collaborate on any more children’s books?

KB: We are going to be collaborating on another project very soon. It’s actually not a children’s book, but we’re going to be working it. It’s so funny because a lot of these things were supposed to get shared in 2020, but because of like the way 2020 worked out, all these things are going to be shared in 2021. And so I’m just super excited about the New Year and the projects I’ve been working on this entire year that will be coming out next year and so on.

SK: We’re super excited to hear about them soon!

These celebrity parents are out and proud. 

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