Holidays with Family: 5 Tips for Survival

Surviving Holiday's with Family

By: Dr. Margo Jacquot

Are your holidays with family neither merry nor bright? This time of year tickles our expectations for tidings of great joy celebrating holidays with family. But what happens when your family brings you feelings that are quite the opposite? What happens when you just don’t like or can’t get along with your mother, father, brother, sister or other family member? As one client sarcastically stated, “being with family is life’s rich banquet.” Actually, it can be a banquet of frustration, disappointment, arguing and feeling generally bad.

While this may sound like the musings of the Grinch, some people would rather skip the whole holiday season, all of the packages, boxes and bags if it meant they could be spared discord of holidays with family.

Sometimes staying away from family is all that you can do. So, just in case, here are…

5 Tips on How to Manage Holidays with Family (or any event with someone who really gets under your skin):

  1. Be clear: Be clear with yourself and your family about how much time you will be available on a holiday. If you are visiting, ask about the timing for the important parts of the day – opening of gifts, dinner, etc. Arrive as close to the time of the event you want to be present for and plan to leave immediately following. If you are hosting, be clear with invited guests about arrival and departure times. People are often afraid to say and keep stop times of parties, but being clear up front and politely wrapping up the event by clearing dishes and stating that the event is ending can have a surprisingly positive effect.
  2. Provide a distraction: Bring or provide a game or movie for you and any other part of the group to utilize during down times. Being busy with something neutral can provide a safe haven from relatives who might start arguments.
  3. Do not engage: If someone says something nasty or tries to start an argument with you, ask yourself if it is really worth it to engage. Typically, the answer is no. Not today. You can feel angry, hurt, or any number of feelings, but feelings do not need to result in behavior.  Sit this one out.
  4. Leave the Chip on Your Shoulder at Home: Don’t walk in with an attitude. Don’t start anything and don’t engage if someone baits you. There will be other opportunities to engage when it is not a holiday.
  5. Find Something to Celebrate: Lower your expectations and find some part of the holiday event (the brilliant corn soufflé, watching Grandma open her new slippers) and just enjoy what you can in a moment by moment way.

My wish for you is that all of your holidays will be merry and bright. If they aren’t I wish you as many moments of pleasure as you can find.

Posted with permission from The Juniper Center

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Dr. Margo Jacquot, PsyD, CSADC, Certified EMDR Therapist, is founder and director of The Juniper Center, a premier trauma recovery center in the Midwest. Founded in 1996, The Juniper Center provides expert individualized care by 15 therapists in five locations, specializing in the areas of trauma recovery, addiction, sexuality and gender identity, and couples and family therapy.

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