Having family come together for the holidays can be wonderful, but it can also be frustrating. Whether we’re avoiding heated political discussions, over-imbibing cousins or 150 mile days spent attending three Christmas dinners, the holidays can put as much stress on our personal relationships as they do on our stomachs and our bank accounts.
One way to minimize the stress of family time is to take our own limitations seriously and develop a plan for coping with difficult situations. Here are a few suggestions:
- If you’re visiting someone else’s home, take your own car. If things get too stressful you can always leave.
- If you’re worried about unpleasant situations, take a friend or relative to be your back up. It’s always easier to stay calm if you have someone there who understands and supports you.
- Remember that frank speaking doesn’t work with everyone. It’s fine to stick up for yourself, but this won’t stop some people from being unkind. It’s more realistic to deal with people the way they are, not the way we wish they were or think they should be.
- During the holidays, many of us see friends and relatives with whom we rarely interact during the year. This is a time to renew relationships, not to get in ideological arguments.
- In spite of the potential for conflict, the holidays really can be a time for reconnecting. Within reason, try not to let one or two unpleasant people come between you and your loved ones.
- Although the holidays are a time for goodwill, Hallmark movies notwithstanding, there is no holiday magic for fixing broken relationships. If we expect the holidays to magically fix what has taken place during the rest of the year, we are likely to bring up bad memories which will simply generate more conflict.
If we have a plan, we are less likely to react without thinking, which may further damage relationships. If we set boundaries out before a visit, we can take comfort in knowing we have a plan in place for managing potentially negative situations.