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5 Tips for Dealing with Difficult Family Members During the Holidays!

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The holidays are here again and you know what that means- holiday traditions, ugly sweater parties, yummy food, Aunt Patty's drinking problem, and, gasp, the in-laws! The holidays are a time of stress for many! Sprinkle in differing personalities, old wounds, and spiked apple cider and some times you have a recipe for disaster. Let's make this year different with 5 tips for dealing with difficult family members during the holidays. 


5 Tips for Dealing with Difficult Family Members During the Holidays


1. Practice Gratitude Year Around. There really is a reason to pick up that gratitude journal you've had sitting on your night stand all year! Harvard Health states "gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships." (If you're interested in reading more you can read the article in full here).  Did you catch that last part? Research shows that gratitude helps build strong relationships! So rather than focus on Aunt Patty's not so great characteristics slowly work to turn your attention to her redeeming qualities. Maybe she makes an awesome margarita or tells the funniest stories. What about the in-laws? What part of your relationship with your in-laws are you grateful for? Maybe they raised an amazing partner, cook a mean turkey, or maybe they are great with your kids. 


2. Be Aware of Your Expectations. Repeat after me- Things will NOT be perfect this year and that's ok! The holidays are certainly a time when we can all go into expectation overload! Maybe you hope for your relationship with your mother to be different and that feels especially hard this time of year. Perhaps you're keeping your fingers crossed that Aunt Patty doesn't get loaded and make a scene. Maybe you're praying your mother-in-law can keep her opinions to herself this year. Unfortunately, you can't control other people's choices- not even over the holidays! Your family members are going to act how they choose to regardless of your expectations and hopes for a different experience. What you can control is your response! You can choose to set and hold boundaries with family members, you can choose to own your feelings and have a conversation, and you can choose to leave if a situation feels uncomfortable or unsafe!  


3. Own Your Feelings. It's totally acceptable to state that you didn't appreciate when your mother-in-law shared how dry she found your turkey to be at the dinner table. Imagine what it might feel like to simply say, "Ouch, that hurt a little. I worked hard on that turkey," rather than silently fuming about the interaction all night. You never know, she mighteven muster an apology and what a different experience that could be! Practice using "I" statements ahead of time so you build some comfort forming them before you are in the heat of the moment.


 "I" statement:    "I feel (feeling word) when (explantation)"


This structure can feel a little cheesy at first but the idea is to practice ways to get your feelings off your chest without blaming others. Nothing escalates an argument faster than blame. Lastly, it's important to be kind to yourself, if the conversation doesn't go exactly as planned remind yourself you're doing the best you can.


4. "We Will Take That into Consideration." Unsolicited advice? Let me guess- your mother is concerned about little Joey's eating habits. Learn the art of listening fully to your family members suggestions and having the ability to choose to do things the way you see fit for your family. By simply saying "We'll take that into consideration" you're communicating you've heard what they had to say and you'll be considering it, and ultimately, the choice is yours and your husbands to make together. 


5. Find common ground. You're dreading spending the week with your in-laws and have no idea what you'll do to fill the time or avoid the same uncomfortable visit as last year. Begin by spending a little time brainstorming things you know your in-laws love to do. Any overlapping interests? Ask you husband to help fill you in on interests you may not know about. You might be surprised to find your father-in-law was a track star and would totally light up if you suggested getting in a morning run together. You can also start the conversation early this year via email and see if you can find a few common interests to look forward to. 


BONUS. Take a Break. Go ahead and excuse yourself BEFORE you absolutely need to. There is no rule that you have to be present and socialize the entirety of the visit. Sneak upstairs to close your eyes and breathe for a bit or play some light music on your phone. Most importantly, remember to tell yourself that you are taking a break to take good care of yourself! 

If you are looking for more resources and help with navigating the holidays you can check out my blog "5 Tips for Surviving the Holidays/Holidaze" here.If you're feeling like you could use some extra support this time of year, please reach out and I'd be happy to speak with you. 


Now it's your turn!


Pick one idea to implement and see what shifts. How does it affect your mood, stress level, do you notice any changes in yourself or your relationships as the holidays approach?


I'd love to hear from you!! How did it go? Share in the comments below. 


And if you found this useful don't forget to pass it along! Just click the social media icons below to share. 


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