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How to Deal with Difficult Family Members Around the Holidays

The original version of this article was published here.

Even though we often associate Christmas with a time of gathering with family and friends in a state of harmony and giving, we all know that’s not always the case.

Sure, we experience joy and love in the process of giving gifts and spending time with our loved ones, but it’s not always peaches and cream. There are challenges, conflicts, and arguments. These conflicts can cause a lot of unnecessary stress and make the holiday less enjoyable than we want it to be.

But there are things that we can do. There are 4 simple mindset shifts can help turn a potential challenging holiday into an enjoyable one. Here are four tips to remember during this holiday season to make yours a better one.

#1 – Accept others as they are.

People are going to do what they want to do when they want to do it. It’s not our responsibility to do it for them. Everyone is their own unique individual with their own personal power and responsibility for their own lives. If we try to push or control others in some way, then we are only going to cause more conflict not only for them, but also for ourselves.

So if you don’t necessarily like something that another family member is doing, then it’s okay to say so casually and calmly but then leave it at that. Let them take care of it and make their own choices for themselves.

You are also not going to change someone else’s personality or way of doing things – they have to do that for themselves when and if they want to. You can voice your preferences, but let go of the need to control or force anything because if you do you are crossing over into the other person’s personal boundaries. Everything will happen in the way it is meant to happen. Trust that.

LetGoControl

Click to Tweet: Let go and trust that others will learn and grow in their own way on their own time. via @jenilyn8705

#2 – Set your own personal boundaries.

If someone is asking you to do something that you don’t want to do, then tell them. If there is something that you would like to do, then be clear about telling them. Be clear about what you want and try to avoid falling into the whole “Oh just do whatever you want to do” response. Be assertive and clear about your own personal preferences.

That being said, also be aware of what you want to deal with and what you don’t want to deal with. For instance, if a family member brings up some topic to discuss that you don’t feel comfortable with then say so. Focus inward and take note of how you feel. Be true to that and voice that so others know.

#3 – Try to avoid the political or religious debate.

More often than not, when a political or religious discussion arises around the holiday table it ends up causing an argument or, at least, get fairly heated.  I’d recommend to try to steer clear of these types of discussions. If they come up, we can try to defuse them by changing the subject.  If other people bring up the religious or political debate, it may just be easier to go into the other room and find something else to do.

Most of the time, these discussions aren’t very proactive – meaning, it doesn’t really change or impact anything. It just ruffles people’s feathers. So try to focus discussions more on “catching up” and discussing experiences.

#4 – Take time for yourself.

Even though Christmas and New Years are very “extraverted” kind of holidays where there is a lot of giving gifts and dinner parties, this is actually a very good time to reflect over the past year and reconnect to spirit.

So get out a journal and reflect over your experiences.  Write out a list of new year’s resolutions. Sit down and read some of your favorite Christmas stories.  Watch some of your favorite Christmas movies.  Find ways to reflect and to really tap into that Christmas spirit in whatever way works for you.

Allowing yourself the time and space to look within and connect can really help turn a stressful and challenging Christmas into a truly magical one.

What are some of your biggest challenges this holiday season? What are some concepts that you feel that you really need to remember during this time? What helps you really connect and get into the Christmas spirit?