Coping with Family During the Holidays
People tend to spend more time with their families during the holidays than they do at any other time of the year. This is a time when we hope for loving connection, or at least to weather the storm. Even in the most loving families the shear intensity of the contact can sometimes be challenging. With a little planning and a lot of intentionality we can find ways to cope with the challenges:
- Anticipate – think about the most difficult situations, the most difficult people, the most difficult timeframes. Develop strategies for coping with them. For example, tag-team a difficult person so that no one person reaches the limits of their patience.
- Don’t expect miracles. Unrealistic expectations can set us up for disappointment.
- Limit your intake of alcohol – you are better able to adapt if your brain is working at its best and your ability to inhibit inappropriate actions intact. If another person’s drinking is likely to make things worse as the visit goes on, plan a timely exit.
- Take breaks – take a walk, or take a book to read when you have reached your limits. If necessary, claim that there is a phone call you need to make.
- Don’t raise contentious issues and politely decline to engage if someone else brings one up.
- If you must establish boundaries with someone who has figuratively stepped on your toes, gently, but firmly request a change in behavior using “I statements.” For example, “I’d prefer that you not comment on my work status while we’re having dinner.”
- If you step on someone else’s toes, apologize.
- If necessary, leave the situation.
With planning, attention and restraint, we can make the holidays go as smoothly as possible. And sometimes, we even get to savor the gifts of good food and moments of connection with people we love.
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