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5 Tips to Manage Difficult Family Members on Christmas

5 Tips to Manage Difficult Family Members on Christmas

Stockings hung on a family's fireplace mantle

Managing Family on Christmas

This time of year is joyous, merry, and bright.  This time of year for many people is also stressful and difficult.  Our culture promotes a vision of a happy family sharing eggnog by the beautifully decorated Christmas tree that towers over bundles of presents.  But what happens when that vision is impossible because your family doesn’t get along with one another or you can’t live up to the high expectations our culture places on this one day?  I have talked about the holidays in my office with clients every day since Halloween.  You are not alone.  Below I have listed some ways to manage the holidays when your family is not Norman Rockwell Christmas painting.

5 tips for helping manage the family on Christmas:

  • Keep the day in perspective– Christmas is only one day.  It is 24 hours out of 8760 hours in a year.  This day will pass just like all other days.
  • Limit your time with toxic family members– Create a plan prior to entering into situations with toxic family member/s.  Try to determine how long you can be around your family without feeling overwhelmed.  You can then share with family members how long you will be spending with them to help manage their expectations of you.
  • You will not make everyone happy– If you are spending the holiday with more than one person, there will be some type of conflict.  Inevitably someone will wish you were serving a different type of food, be disappointed with a gift, or upset that a family tradition isn’t continuing this year.  Shift your expectations to accept this and try to focus on one aspect of the day that truly brings you joy.
  • Set boundaries for discussion topics– Family members often think that the holidays are an appropriate time to bring up past resentments or matters.  You have the option of whether to engage in this conversation or not.  You can set healthy boundaries by stating, “I think this is a topic that we can find another time to discuss” or “I’ve decided today is not a good day to talk about that issue.”
  • Leave– You can try all the above tips and your family may still be too much to manage.  That is okay.  Discuss a signal or code word with a trusted friend or family member prior to the family gathering that indicates when you are ready to leave.  This will help keep one another accountable to leaving prior to a situation becoming out of hand.  You always have a choice of whether or not you stay.  At times, it is better to excuse yourself from a situation than remain entrenched in an environment that creates intense distress.

You can do this!