Do you feel like going home for the holidays can be stressful? Maybe some family members just get on your nerves. Or maybe you are worried about sensitive topics coming-up on the dinner table, such as differing political views. In this article, I will share with you some of the best specific strategies on how to deal with family during the holidays.
Start with your why:
Before we get into specific strategies that you can use to handle the stress that comes with family gatherings, let's take a quick moment to focus on why you are spending the holidays with your family. Is it just a tradition that you follow, or is it something that you enjoy, even if it comes with some tensions and stressors?
Naming this reason will help you make the most out of the holidays, by remembering that even if stressful, it's still your choice to spend time with your family. Even if that reason is to make them happy, which in turn makes you happy. And hopefully, there's more that you get out of spending time with your family and loved ones over the holidays.
Regardless, family gatherings can be difficult with people getting on each other's nerves, and passionate talks on sensitive topics like relationships or politics. So let's talk about some concrete ways on how to navigate those
Identify your triggers
The first thing you would need in order to manage difficult family situations over the holidays is to know what your triggers are. Is it you different political views or rival sports teams, are you worried about discussions on controversial news topics, or are you worried about all the questions and criticism about your life choices? Or could be silly arguments like who gets the tv remote.
Identifying what is it that feels most stressful about visiting your family will help you pin-point what exactly is it you would need to watch-out for, and manage, rather than just this general sense of vague stress and feeling overwhelmed about your visit. Once you know these stressors, you can easily manage using one of the four strategies that I'm about to share with you.
1 - Pick your battle
Does it really matter to you who gets the tv remote, and what you watch, especially if it's just a matter of a day or two? Somethings are of course easier to look past, like the tv shows, compared to others, like political views or conversations about your personal life. So be intentional in choosing your battles - a strategy that might seem too simple on the surface, but is often overlooked.
Another thing to keep in mind is that when dealing with families, it's easy to get caught-up in the emotions or beliefs that you already hold, such as "my brother always gets his way," or "my aunt always tries to push my buttons".... In those moments it can be really important to check-in with yourself, and pick your battles carefully, so you don't end-up feeling frustrated about small things that you won't even remember a week later.
2 - Boundaries
2 Types of personal boundaries when it comes to family: First - Identify what topics are off-limits.
Remember you don't need an external validation of it's "right" or "okay" to ask your parents, siblings, or relatives to not talk about something. If you're not ready to talk about plans to get married, then it's okay to establish that boundary But if you feel okay with them talking about your plans to change jobs, then you don't need that boundary.
Do what you need to do for yourself - to stay calm, grounded, and motivated at this point of time. And as seasons of life change for you, you can modify or remove these boundaries as well.
Second kind of boundary is - Keeping the conversations respectful and tamed. What does that look like? Where is the line? And how would you know when they are being pushed?How can you identify your boundaries being pressed against, before it gets to the point that you start feeling uncomfortable or irritated?
Communicating these boundaries ahead of time
Ideally when you're making plans for the holidays, or at least before you head home. Let them know what topics are off-limits for you, or what other boundaries have you established for yourself. And remember, these boundaries are not for others - they are for yourself, to keep you in a state of mind that feels safe, calm and grounding for you.
If you're concerned about how to communicate them, then try to keep the focus on you when communicating these boundaries - why they are important to you, and they will help you feel comfortable and supported.
Setting the right expectations
Not everyone will remember or respect, especially when it doesn't have the same emotional response on them as it does on you Reinforcing these boundaries can be important when that happens, even if a bit uncomfortable, and the next tip will help you do that.
But first, I just want to mention that do stay with me until the end of this video, because I'm going to share a bonus tip to get you in the right mindset for the holidays, regardless of how difficult your family is - and it's something that you can do all by yourself, and isn't dependent on anyone else. So stay tuned.