Do you get that feeling of dread in the pit of your stomach when the holidays approach? Perhaps you love decorating, gifts, preparing meals, and holiday parties, but know all of that can be dampened by just a few people. A few people you just can’t seem to avoid around this time of the year. Yes, that’s right, relatives.
While most of the time, Thanksgiving, Eid, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza or other holidays spent with family can be familiar and fun. But we all know that inventability, there are those difficult family members that are just hard to be around. This might be a long standing unhealthy relationship, or perhaps new issues have driven rifts between people. Whatever the case, know that holidays don’t have to be stressful and that there are ways to still have a festive time. You may not be able to change how certain family members act, but you can mitigate uncomfortable encounters and your stress.
Here are five tips to deal with toxic family members during the holidays.
Kill with kindness.
Think about what you truly appreciate about those relatives that you may find bothersome. While it may be hard, showing kindness may shock normally unfriendly or combative family members into behaving better. Compliment them on their sweater, a recent photo they took, or on their children’s accomplishments. Focus on the good.
Help out or stay busy.
You can avoid any idle time where politics or other uncomfortable conversations might popup by helping out when you can. Offer to help out in the kitchen, put away coats, play with the children, or clean up afterwards. Not only are you avoiding situations that may give unhealthy relationships a chance to rear their ugly heads, you’re also practicing acts of kindness, that in turn boost everyone’s sense of happiness.
Focus on self-care.
Family dynamics are difficult, we know. That’s why it’s so important to remember to take a break from worrying about keeping everyone happy and remember to keep yourself happy too! If you need a break during the holidays, take a break! Call or text friends, take a nap, take a walk by yourself, or read a book. Remember to carve out time just for yourself.
Set intentions for the holidays.
Keep in mind, this isn’t something like “Bake the most extravagant feast for the whole family” kind of intention. This is more of the “I’m going to remember to take deep breaths” and “I am grateful for…” kind of reminders for yourself. If a mean aunt makes a snide remark or a cousin throws shade on your cooking, take a deep breath, remind yourself of what your intentions are (“I am grateful for good company and good food.”) and move on!
Change up routine/tradition.
If your parents insist you stay at their house, but you absolutely cannot stand a week in their house, stay with a friend or other family member for half the time. Avoid your usual seat by your narcissistic uncle (even if it means scooting other people down the table.) Starting your own family? You are allowed to have your own traditions and time spend with your own nuclear family, just remember it may take some getting used to from the rest of the family.
Ultimately, the holidays should be a time of joy for you and your family. If you find yourself still struggling after the holidays with overbearing stress and anxiety about your family, know that we’re here for you at Triani Counseling. We all know that every family is different and that, yes, every family has its issues, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t have a stress-free holiday season and still find joy with each other.
We wish you a healthy and happy holiday season and if you need us, we’re always here for you!