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 or avoiding issues. 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.
Although the holidays are a time for goodwill, they are not a time for fixing broken relationships. If we try to use holiday visits for relationship repair, we are likely to bring up bad memories which will simply generate more conflict. The key isn’t to fix relationships over the holidays, but to accept what we can and use the time to stay in touch with our more prickly loved ones. If our expectations are realistic, we’re less likely to be disappointed, and more likely to do the good that we can do with a minimum of relationship stress.