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3 Simple and Practical Ways to Stop the Holiday Bickering and Enjoy the Holidays with Your Family and Friends

Ah the Holiday Season. Days for feasting, football-watching, family reunions….and family arguments, red-hot tempers, and awkward silences. Why is it that the holiday season brings so much drama? Couples argue over which side of the family to spend the holidays with, relatives argue over old insults and hurts, over-tired parents scream at their sugar-high children, and children vie for attention through tantrum-throwing and good old-fashioned bellowing.

And the not-so-great family dynamics that we try so hard to hide, come screaming to the surface.

And this is just the start of the holiday season.

It’s easy (and sometimes cathartic) to lose tempers and let them all have it, or to check out emotionally while being there physically….or to all-together skip the family holiday gatherings and travel to some beach in Hawaii instead. It is much, much harder to manage yourself, maintain your cool, and engage with your family authentically. 

The truth is, every family has a little bit or a lot of unresolved tension, every family has topics of conversation that tend to heat things up, and unspoken rules that are to be followed, or else…The difference lies, in how each family manages these dynamics, that makes or breaks a happy holiday gathering. And all of that begins with managing yourself.

When you haven’t worked through your individual feelings and taken responsibility for your own responses, you tend to react to age-old family dynamics in the same-old ways.

When you hold onto grudges, you harbor hurt that will come out in unhealthy ways.

When you try to act like superman or superwoman, and do it all yourself, you feel exhausted and resentful and then take it out on your loved ones.

So, apart from going to therapy and working through issues that have you feeling everything from anger to shame, here are just 3 tips (because I know how busy you are) to help get you through those holiday gatherings and help you actually enjoy your family.

    1.    Know your limits. Don’t do it all. Don’t take it all on. Say no to that third party. Say no to an inconvenient family get-together. Delegate, say what you need and ask for help. Stop trying to be the perfect host/hostess.

    2.    Put it aside. All the family relationship issues, anger, resentment. Put it aside for now, then work through your feelings (read: set up an appointment with a therapist and figure out those difficult feelings that take you over and learn how to change your responses). So that next year the same old difficult feelings don’t come up for you, even if the same old family dynamics do come up in your family.

    3.    Be present.  No technology. No emotional escape. No fake illnesses to get you out of going, or participating in conversation. Just plain old presence and engagement with those you love the most in the whole world, (even if sometimes you want to knock them over the head with the frozen turkey).

Here at North Metro Psychological Services, we would be honored to provide you with a safe space to process your feelings and family dynamics and with a few practical tools to help you enjoy time with your family and friends this holiday season. 

We want to wish you all a Happy Holiday Season and a Very Merry Christmas!

By Lana Banegas, LMFT