The holidays are a time for spending time with friends and loved ones, eating good meals, and enjoying each other’s company. But, of course, with that many different personalities in one place who aren’t used to each other, family spats are almost unavoidable. Tensions can easily run high with differing political views, personal opinions, and the current news of the world.
So how can you make things a little less stressful
and avoid discourse in your family?
Prepare yourself in advance.
Maybe you want to have that tough discussion with a family member. Maybe they just aren’t educated on the topic, and you think that if you could share some information they may change their minds or at least see it from your perspective. Being prepared on your topic, well informed, and open to other people’s opinions will help you begin the subject in the right way.
It’s also always a good thing to have a couple “fluffer” conversation starters in your back pocket in case things are becoming tense! It might also make you feel better to be prepared for any “hard-hitter” conversations that may arise.
Be open to what your other family members are saying. Remember, you can always pull back whenever you feel things beginning to sour. More often than not, people are more inclined to listen in return to someone who offers them honest and earnest attention. Knowing they have a voice and that it is heard helps them become more open with you as well.
“Hear in order to be heard.” [ X ]
Information as understanding.
Use information or facts you’ve gathered as a means to educate, not to belittle, or as a weapon. Also make sure that if you’re going to engage in a topic that might be stressful or cause conflict, approach it in an open-minded way.
No one wants to feel like they’ve been backed into a corner with a debate when all they were trying to do was get a second helping of stuffing.
Be careful of emotions.
Not that emotions are bad! But bringing our bodies back to a calm state will help us see the situation better, and keep things from quickly going south. Listen to your body. Is your temperature rising? Heart rate elevated? Cheeks flushed? These can all be signs that you need to tune back in before your emotions run away with you.
Remember that, most times, you are talking to people who do love and cherish you. The regret that comes after an emotional, angry outburst leaves both parties feeling awful.
Maybe you can only do one night of activities with your family. Maybe you know you can’t stay for longer than a few days. Setting boundaries with our family can be extremely difficult, but also extremely liberating. As much as we love and want to be around our family, there still aren’t obligations to do certain things “just because”.
If you know you can only take a few hours of Aunt Linda cornering you by the dip to rant about a view you disagree with, one that she won’t budge on either, then don’t feel pressured to spend the next four days with her simply because it’s the holidays.
A simple way to divert a conversation from going down a path that you know will be bad for your mental health is to ask a simple question about them. “How are the kids? / Photos from vacation? Dog’s surgery?” can all steer the conversation away in a way that won’t leave them feeling rejected.
You don’t have to engage in every conversation, be talked at, or make every party. Your own mental health during stressful times is just as important.
Focus on what brings you together as a family.
Maybe the most important thing with the heaviness of the world: focus on the good things that bring you all together. Share stories of past holidays, goofy moments, loved ones you miss, that one time someone almost burnt the kitchen down cooking a turkey. What’s the reason you all gathered there in the first place?
As most of us enter our second holiday season during a pandemic, it’s easy to lose sight of the present and the good things we have in our lives. Take this as a moment to express gratitude to the things you have, and cut loose from the things that no longer serve you.