How to Deal with Family Drama Around the Holidays

For many of us, spending time with family during the holidays is something straight out of a Hallmark movie, with days filled with comfort and joy. But for others, the holidays with family are scarier than Halloween. From the stress of traveling to the pressure of buying and wrapping gifts, and that many family members can’t be in the same room with each other without a fight erupting, holidays can be stressful!

While you can’t necessarily stop family drama from occurring, there are some simple and effective ways you can help you cope with it:

Have Realistic Expectations

So much of the pain of the holidays comes from having unrealistic expectations. So don’t set yourself up for disappointment. Acknowledge beforehand that you and your family are human, that there may be moments that aren’t very pleasant, and that it’s okay to feel what you feel. Life and families are messy. Recognize it, own it; by managing expectations and approaching your family with a measure of acceptance, you will be less likely to get upset.

Set Your Boundaries

Time spent with families over the holidays can also trigger us to feel like children all over again, essentially helpless. But you are an adult and can take care of yourself. You can set healthy and respectful boundaries to protect your mental health. Determine what you will and will not tolerate before you go — things like meal times and sleeping accommodations to what topics of discussion you are willing to engage.

Be sure to share your limits with all involved clearly and succinctly. Remember, less is more. You do not need to justify yourself.

Use Good Judgement

When the holiday drama sets in, it’s easy to want to drink more or eat more processed foods. But in large amounts, alcohol and processed sugars impair our mood and judgment. So do your best not to overindulge.

Lack of sleep also can negatively impact our mood. Do your best to get enough sleep.

Therapy Can Help

You may also want to speak with a therapist in the weeks leading up to the holidays. He or she can give you tools to help you navigate the awkward and tense moments during family get-togethers.

If you’re interested in exploring counseling, please reach out to me. I’d love to help your holidays be warm and merry (or at least tolerable!).


How to deal with toxic family members during the happiest time of year

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