We tend to cross our fingers and hope to avoid family drama during the holidays.
I get it.
I’ve been at holiday gatherings gone wrong.
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6 Tips for Dealing With Family Drama During the Holidays
I was feeling anxious about a particular holiday get together. I love the people, but wasn’t willing to subject myself to the dysfunction I’d grown weary of. So, I talked to my then counselor about how to handle it.
We came up with three tips for surviving the holidays with family.
First, we discussed my immediate family and the consequences of not participating in a family holiday. During that conversation, I realized my top priority was keeping my immediate family unit of three in tact during the holidays. That meant, I would go with them rather than stay home.
You certainly don’t have to spend the holidays with family you don’t like. The main thing is to be clear on your priorities and make the best decision you can.
Just because I was going to spend the holidays with family didn’t mean I had to tolerate toxic behavior. So, my counselor and I came up with a plan for how to survive the family holiday.
We went through a couple of scenarios and rehearsed what I could say in each situation.
Avoiding Family Drama When You’re a Guest
It’s tricky when you’re in someone else’s home. But, you can still establish boundaries to protect yourself from family drama.
- Express your discomfort and remove yourself from the situation.
- If the behavior continues, announce you are leaving.
Setting the Tone When You’re Hosting Family for the Holidays
As the host, you get to set the tone. If someone displays unwanted behavior, try these techniques:
- confront the situation, explaining what you will and won’t tolerate.
- If it continues, ask the family member to leave.
Having a plan and a loose script for what I would say in certain situations made me feel empowered. It also kept me from wanting to avoid the family holiday celebration altogether.
Let your household in on your plan. That way they can support you as well as be prepared in case of any family tension.
Be sure to have a plan if you do choose to leave a holiday party.
- Would your spouse and children leave too?
- If not, how will they get home?
Once you’re home, or everyone has left your house, and emotions have settled give your immediate family a chance to express their feelings. Kids may need to process the events and want to understand why family members fight. And frankly, adults need to decompress too.
Practice Self Care
Tending to your needs and taking time to fill your cup will help you relax and stay calm. The key is to make self care a part of your daily life.
The easiest way to to that is by making room for intentional moments throughout your day. It can be a simple as closing your eyes and taking a few deep breaths, or getting a few minutes of sunshine in the morning when you wake up.
A regular self care routine also makes it easier to just be yourself and not worry about what other people say, think or do. Which leads me to this next tip I added to the ones my counselor gave me.
Normally, I’d spend an entire evening putting up a facade based on what I thought people expected of me. Spending your energy trying to please people at your own expense is exhausting and doesn’t help already tense circumstances.
So whether I’m hosting family or am a guest in their home, I make a conscious decision to relax and be myself.
I’ll tell you what, I’m usually able to have a good time. If something upsetting does happen, I remove myself from the situation and enjoy the rest of the family get together.
Shift Your Mindset
Another big lesson I’ve learned over the years is messy doesn’t necessarily mean bad. Uncomfortable and hard yes, but sometimes mixing family and holidays opens the door to conversations you wouldn’t otherwise get to have.
Matt, Hannah and I were sitting around the table after dinner one night during her Summer break. I was tempted to hurry from the table with my empty plate and move on with the evening. But, that’s when Hannah started opening up.
The three of us sat at the table for maybe another hour after we’d finished our fish tacos, asking questions, sharing our hearts, and diving into matters of politics and religion. Some of it was outside our comfort zones, but our hearts were lighter when we finally stood from the table.
Later that evening, I looked over at the bare table and was overcome with the realization I was looking at holy ground: a place where God’s people gathered together, relating to each other and to God.
So, this holiday season, as you gather with your people around the Thanksgiving table or in the family room around a Christmas tree, know this: No matter what happens, you are standing on holy ground.
Wishing you a truly happy holiday season,