HealthONE - November 14, 2018

The holidays can be a time of merriment and joy, but sometimes all that festive fun comes with family drama. While many families celebrate the holidays happily, there can also be stressful situations, tense moments and misunderstandings among family members.

Here are a few tips to help navigate family drama during the holidays, so that everyone can relax and enjoy spending time together:

  1. Accept that you can’t make everyone happy
    Many of us want to see our family members have a good time over the holidays. However, remember that it’s not your job to make everyone happy and get along. If hosting a big family holiday meal stresses you out, it’s okay to take a break from your hosting duties and ask someone else to host instead. It’s also okay to ask family members to get a hotel or reserve an AirBnB instead of staying at your home. As some like to say, “No one ever died from disappointment.”
  1. Start new or different traditions
    Traditions can be a big part of the holiday season, but this doesn’t mean that you must keep every family tradition going each year. As families grow and change, so can your holiday traditions. Family traditions should be about family bonding, not forcing everyone to do something they don’t like. One way to ease family tensions during the holidays is to create new traditions. If your family often fights with each other over the dinner table, plan a different activity (maybe one that involves less talking, like sledding) that all can participate in together.
  1. Remind yourself that you’re a grown up (even if you don’t feel like one)
    Family gatherings have a tendency to bring about old grudges and resentments. Even as adults, we can find ourselves reverting to the parent-child roles of our past, which makes us feel like a helpless kid all over again. If you have an older sibling who still teases you, or a relative who still treats you like an 8-year-old, remind yourself that you always have a choice in how you respond. You don’t have to default to old family patterns during the holidays if you don’t want to.
  1. It’s okay to put your immediate family first
    One of the toughest things about the holidays is deciding between events that conflict with your schedule. You may feel pressure from relatives to attend get-togethers that are far away, or you might have a hard time putting the needs of your immediate family above those of your extended family. One approach is to think of family expectations in terms of a concentric circle. In the center are you and your partner’s needs and wants, then your children’s needs and wants, and finally, the needs and wants of your extended family. This can help you prioritize your holiday schedule and manage other’s expectations.
  1. Remember that everyone has good intentions
    During the holidays, family members can say things they don’t really mean, or act out due to other pressures or conflicts occurring in their own lives. Remind yourself that most people have good intentions and try not to take judgmental comments personally. We might want our family members to change in some ways, but sometimes all you can do is accept that they probably won’t. Try to see the humor in stressful situations and apologize quickly if you’re the one who offends someone during the holidays.

    No matter what family dramas may arise this holiday season, the good news is that the holiday season only comes once a year — and by the following year most family members forget what all the drama was about anyway.