Five Tips for Dealing With Family Conflicts During the Holidays
In an ideal world, holidays are a time of unadulterated love and joy where close-knit families come together to spend quality time with one another. Unfortunately, this is not that world. Here things are far from ideal. Families quarrel, relationships break, and people get hurt all the time. And the holidays are no exception.
Problem is, the hurt, the disappointment, the anger, the frustration, and the heartache magnify when there is a family conflict during the holidays. It could be a fight between spouses, a conflict between two or more generations in the family (you and your in-laws, or you and the children), quarreling between adult siblings who don’t get along anymore, and it could be so much more. It could be a new family conflict in the holidays. It could be long-standing family disagreements which will come afresh in the holidays. Or it could simply be years of growing apart within the family such that spending the holidays together feels ‘forced’ to you or to them.
The bad news is, family disagreements and the holidays do go hand in hand. And there’s little you can do to eliminate this connection altogether. The good news is, there are a couple of easy, albeit effective things you can do to lessen the pain and survive family disagreements during the holidays. Let’s quickly see five of them.
Ways to Deal with Family Disagreements During Holidays
Lower your expectations
Don’t go in expecting more love, acceptance, or appreciation than reality can deliver. It is easy for us to slip into that rosy state during the holidays where we feel all is/will be forgiven and forgotten. There is no telling what the other person feels. So don’t expect more from the family gathering than what you have received in the past. Keep into mind where your family relationship stands right now and not where you want it to be.
Let go of the negative emotions
Release. Release. Release. And put yourself at ease. You may feel unappreciated, frustrated, angry, frightened, frustrated. Clear your mind, not because you need to be the bigger person, not because they deserve it, but because you do. You deserve peace of mind during the holidays, even if that does not come with the support of your family. So let go of all negative emotions.
Don’t just hear them; listen. It will benefit both you and them. This is one gift that you must give them, despite the hurt and pain they may have caused you. If they are blaming you, listen. If they are demeaning you, listen. Listen, listen more, and then listen some more. Make up your mind in the beginning itself that this holiday they will be heard by you completely.
And once they (not you) are sure you’ve listened to them sincerely, respond. What you need to remember at this point is that there is more to responding than just talking. Quietly accepting blame is a response. Taking responsibility for the mistakes you feel you may have committed is a response. And explaining your part of the story is a response, albeit one that you do not want to choose. Not during the holiday at least because it will just make the conflict worse.
A good idea is to respond according to the stage of the family conflict during the holiday. If it’s a mild conflict, feel free to ask open ended questions and to communicate in an attempt to resolve the conflict. If it is a moderate-level conflict, use diversion or deliberation to ease the mood. Change the subject of the conversation to a good, happy memory you have or the use a reliable third party to get some relief. However, if the level of conflict has arisen to rather high levels, respond by keeping quiet. Do not engage. Do not retaliate. Walk away if the situation seems damaging to your personal safety or your mental health.
And finally, be prepared to let go of the idea that things will get magically better during the holidays. If you have tried everything and yet cannot seem to catch a break, be prepared to walk away guilt free. Know that you have offered everything you could (including active listening) and that is enough.
Need more help?
The therapists at Agor Behavioral Health Services can help you through holiday conflicts. Contact us today for more information or to schedule afree 20 minute consultation to discuss your situation. Schedule an appointment by calling 630-621-5824 or send us a message.