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12 Ways to Survive Your Dysfunctional Family Christmas

Spending time with our families especially at Christmas can be trying. Many of my clients feel a sense of dread thinking about the family getting together and dealing with the ex as well.

To help you survive the Christmas New Year period I offer 12 ways to make it harder to have your family get together end up in a brawl.

Keep it short and sweet

Don’t feel pressured to stay too long. If you know things will start to go downhill after a few hours, then leave before it happens. Having somewhere else to be afterwards will help you out here.

Drink mindfully

Food and drink are often the focus when hanging out with others, but that doesn’t mean alcohol has to be the focal point. Keeping an eye on your alcohol consumption can help you to be more of control of your thoughts and feelings, which makes it harder for you to say or do something you will regret the next day. Taking things slowly, saying no to those pushing you to ‘keep up’ with their drinking will help avoid alcohol fuelled disagreements.

Share the load

The holidays can be quite stressful for everyone involved with cooking, cleaning, organising etc. If there’s one family member who usually shoulders the brunt of the organising, offer your help. They might enjoy doing it all, but it can lead to resentment or feeling overwhelmed. Even if they don’t take you up on your offer, they know that you are there for them.

Agree to disagree

If your family can’t put politics (or other big topics) to one side, be the bigger person. It doesn’t help anyone when one or both sides take the stance that they are morally superior or refuse to be open to genuine discussion and debate. Before things get heated, change the subject or just say ‘it seems like we aren’t going to solve this’ and get both sides to move on.

Avoid sniping

Muttered comments under your breath and sarcastic replies are not a great way to have everyone feeling happy. In fact, it is good way to make things go from good to bad.

Focus on the positives

If you’re struggling, try and think back on the things you have enjoyed from Christmas pasts. Family traditions that bring a smile, specific foods, that only your family gets. Think back and try to make a list of three festive things you enjoy. Just keeping them in mind can help you to feel a little more positive about your planned time together.

Leave the past in the past

It’s easy to dwell on past bad family gatherings or nasty conversations but staying stuck in the past can sour the present and ruin the moment. To help avoid further confrontations or continued arguments, try to embrace the present and focus on being happy.

Focus on your reactions, not theirs

Recognise that while you can’t change others, you can still control your reaction. Avoid the urge to sink to their level and try to take the high ground. Take care of yourself first, whilst still trying to be empathetic to those around you. You can’t win them all, but you can do your best to be kind to yourself (and others).

It’s not a competition

In some families it is all about outdoing each other. Trying to out do each other will never end up with everyone feeling happy. Just let the person who likes to think they are better than everyone else think it. They are never going to change so why waste your time trying to prove otherwise?

Treat yourself with kindness and compassion

If haven’t been looking after yourself and not feeling great, then being stuck in a room with your family is not going to make you better. The holiday season may be a time for family, but remember: you can’t pour from an empty cup. If you don’t look after yourself and your wellbeing, you won’t be in the right place to spend time with others.

Is this worth it?

With more and more of us choosing to go it alone or having friend-based celebrations, it’s worth reminding yourself that family ‘fun’ isn’t your only option over the holidays. It’s time to put yourself first, and question if the environment is right for you. The downside to doing this is how will the family react? Maybe choosing to work or help out a homeless shelter is a better way to avoid the family.

If all else fails

If you endure and behave yourself with your family, what will you reward yourself with? Giving yourself something to look forward to for making it through family time can be a huge motivator. Maybe that’s promising yourself a day at home in your pjs, setting aside an evening for you and your partner to create your own traditions, or treating yourself to the kind of ‘real’ food you wish you could have had instead of that bland food your family serves up. Find that one thing that you can really look forward to and set it up as a reward for making it through all of the stress and family politics.

Of course, dysfunction is a broad term. One family’s dysfunction is another’s minor annoyance. Whatever your family is like, I hope you’re able to manage this holiday season with empathy, grace and good cheer.

About David Lawson

Finding the Light is a locally owned and operated counselling and life coaching business based in Bundaberg. We seek to empower our clients to find their way forward to a better life by using the approaches of counselling or coaching. If this blog article has raised more questions please contact us by email or call us on 0407 585 497 to arrange a time for us to discuss the article. Mention this blog and we will give you a FREE 30 minute session to discuss.

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