3 Tips to Enjoy Family This Holiday

Holiday celebrations can feel more like an obligation than a choice. For others, the festivities are great except for that one person that gets under your skin. 

Here are some tips that will keep things civil and create a more peaceful holiday. 

1. Watch your expectations

Your brother Al "forgets" your kid's Christmas gift again.

Dad starts drinking way before you get there and it shows.

Your mother-in-law starts criticizing the way you keep house.

Family time can be tricky when there is leftover hurt and resentment. Going into the holidays expecting others to change sets you up for disappointment. There are parts of family that are just painful. How you manage that hurt can make or break the holidays.

First goal, practice acceptance.

It doesn't mean you like or approve of what your family does, it just means you aren't trying to change them anymore. How you react is the only thing you can change.

Having minimal expectations and practicing acceptance are the keys for creating happier holidays.

Focusing on what your mother said last year prevents you from seeing what is good this year. Can you relate?

When you accept your family, you give up the struggle. Then it becomes easier to find the good because you aren't spending all of your energy trying to change the outcome.

Realizing that they may never meet your needs is part of acceptance. Taking those needs somewhere else is self-care.

2. Handle resentments

How do I enjoy my Aunt Cathy who is aways rude to me? Or my mother-in-law who is passively aggressive about my weight?

You have two choices. Find a way to handle it or keep stewing.

To handle it alone writing is a great way to express yourself without being censored. Find the part you played in the situation. It may be something you did or said before the incident or in reaction to it. Either way, owning your part lessens the resentment and builds empathy.

If you cannot let it go, set up a chat. Stick to the facts of what happened to avoid blame. Let them know how you feel instead of "how they made you feel" which invites defensiveness. Don't bring up anything else. It'll go better if you don't bombard them with past hurts.

3. Stick to neutral topics

With the post election causing stress and relationship divide, finding neutral topics is critical. Agreeing to disagree is necessary when on opposite sides.

If you start reacting, check out what you're hearing. Assumptions are made in an instant. Don't let your mind run away to that negative "stinking thinking" place. 

If you suspect heavy conflict: 

  • Plan ahead.
  • Suggest a different topic to keep the peace.
  • Drive your own car in case you need to leave.
  • Make a different choice like go play with the kids.
  • Offer to get something at the store.

Being light and polite goes a long way here.

Creating a peaceful holiday starts with you! Use humor or bring a funny movie to change the mood. Play a neutral game. Don't overstay if things are getting tense. 

Your family may never change - but you can! 

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