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Love & Relationships
November 21, 2023

Family Gatherings & How to Maintain Your Sanity during the Holidays!

Post By:
Patricia Alexis
In-House Contributor
The Daily Drip
Guest Contributor:

The holiday season is upon us, and so is a predictable stressor-- family gatherings. As much as you might hate to admit it, the thought of having your parents, siblings, inlaws, and extended family under the same roof for hours (or even days) can be totally anxiety inducing. You love all of these people, and they all love you… and yet, the holidays can feel like you’re walking on eggshells. Only the eggshells are made up of generational trauma and years of violated boundaries. Yikes.

When years-long feuds reemerge and tensions run high, what can you do to manage family dynamics in a healthy way?

It’s possible to stop dreading family gatherings, and start creating happy holiday memories. Here are a few practical strategies to actually enjoy your time with the fam-- all while maintaining your sanity.

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Respect personal space. Adults need privacy and personal space, and those needs don’t suddenly pause for the holidays. Honoring personal space for yourself and your family members is important, especially when spending an extended period of time together. Alongside the other adults in your family, discuss how you might find a balance between spending quality time as a group and allowing everyone to have their alone time. You can love each other and enjoy your holiday without spending every waking minute in the same room.

Manage differences in opinion. Holidays can often bring up sensitive topics or disagreements, and the emotional undercurrents of the occasion can cause us to speak or act against our better judgment. When conflicting opinions emerge, prioritize respect as you navigate those conversations. Focus on cultivating empathy and finding common ground. By avoiding heated debates and forgoing the impulse to prove yourself “right,” your entire family will enjoy a more peaceful atmosphere.

Share responsibilities. Holiday gatherings come with their share of responsibilities, such as meal preparation, organizing activities, or hosting duties. Sharing these tasks with others can help distribute the workload and prevent one person from feeling overwhelmed or burdened. Left unchecked, an imbalance in responsibility can lead to resentment over the years; keep lines of communication open, and consider each other’s strengths and preferences when dividing the to-do list.

Recognize individual needs. It’s important to acknowledge and respect each family member’s unique needs and preferences. Not everyone will share your perspectives, even if you grew up under the same roof-- or even if you live under the same one now! Embrace a non-judgmental attitude toward differing lifestyles, parenting styles, or choices. It is possible to accept and understand the values of your adult siblings and extended family members, even if you don’t personally agree with them. 

Make time for self-care. During the holiday season, it is absolutely critical to prioritize your own well-being. Set aside time for activities that bring you joy, whether it’s going for a walk, practicing mindfulness, or engaging in hobbies. You will be better-equipped to interact with your family in a healthy way if you’ve taken time to invest in yourself first. Self-care isn’t selfish; it’s necessary.

Resolve conflicts constructively. Conflicts will almost inevitably happen when a mix of personalities collide, whether they’re minor tiffs or major blowouts. Rather than getting caught up in waves of emotion, pause to actively listen to each other’s perspectives. Use “I” statements instead of accusatory language, and seek compromise whenever possible. It is possible to maintain positive familial relationships through the holidays, but it requires extending compassion and forgiveness.

Once the holiday season comes to an end, our family will still be there. Life will go on, and we will still need healthy boundary-setting strategies as we navigate our daily lives. By practicing these skills with our loved ones, we have an opportunity to intentionally give our extended family the best version of ourselves-- even when we’re so often tempted to give them the worst. 

Lead with love, protect your peace, and make sure everyone is clear on who’s responsible for bringing the turkey!