Tips for Thought

Managing Family Conflict During the Holidays

In most books and movies, the holidays are ideal for family get-togetherness. However, that is only sometimes the case. In fact, for some, the holidays can be a source of stress and cause conflict between family members. 

If you are dreading the holidays, here is a handy guide on how to survive the holidays with family:

1. Manage your expectations.

As much as we would like our families to get along during the holidays, we must accept that it’s not always possible. This possibility can be disappointing for many who dread seeing their family fight during holidays.

One way to manage possible disappointment is to manage your expectations. While it’s great to have hope for peace, you must understand that there will always be a chance that it won’t be likely. Once you make peace with that, you can learn to accept things as they come.

2. Avoid potentially upsetting topics.

Specific topics can cause heated arguments between family members. Some controversial issues you can avoid discussing include politics, religion, and money.

One tip for avoiding discussing such a topic is to give a “non-answer,” which is a response that doesn’t necessarily address the subject. Here’s an example of a non-answer:

  • Family: “Why are you praying when you don’t even believe in God?”
  • Possible answer: “It’s wonderful when [Name] made such a lovely meal for all of us.”

3. Learn to control your reaction.

We cannot control what people say or do, but we can control how we react. When an argumentative family member is trying to provoke us to get an adverse emotional reaction, the best thing to do is to avoid giving them that satisfaction.

Some neutral responses we can practice include the following:

  • Giving a polite smile and a shrug;
  • Redirect your focus on something else and look disinterested;
  • Do not offer any information they can use against you; and
  • Do not diminish yourself

4. Avoid drinking too much.

Alcohol can lower one’s inhibitions and make them most likely to respond emotionally and irrationally. If you do not want to rock the boat during the holidays, try to limit your drinks for the night. If you need to be away from said toxic family member for a while, consider making up a ready-made excuse.

5. Practice gratitude.

It’s difficult to feel anything positive when negative people surround you. However, when you reframe your mind and find things to be grateful for, you realize that this period can be a great learning experience in your lifetime.

The Bottom Line:

The holidays can be incredibly stressful for a lot of people. However, learning to control your reactions can help diminish possible disappointments. While no family is perfect, it’s never a good idea to sacrifice your mental health and dignity to get along.