Holidays bring family together and that is good. However, family issues that were never resolved may come to light. To help your family time during the holidays be peaceful and bright, I have collected a few insights and recommendations for your consideration.
Accept that family relations are complex. Accept that high stress during holidays is real. It relates to the practical demands of decorations, gifts, entertaining, finances and family relations. It also has to do with the inevitable taking stock of the year in conversations in one’s own mind and over the holiday table. People inevitably present their year in holiday card humble-brag style, and it is difficult not to make comparisons between one family and the next.
Establish a realistic idea about who you are going to see and how they are likely to interact with you. Behavior patterns (also called dynamics) between people are very durable. That is, they are challenging to change. If you have a dysfunctional or uncomfortable dynamic with someone you are likely to see, prepare for it. Consider developing responses in advance should difficult topics come up. Remember to make “ I statements ”, i.e., "I feel", "I think".
Set your own boundaries and stay within them. Begin by going to a family gathering focusing on the positive about yourself. Hold to those positive beliefs. Likewise, be tolerant of others and their idiosyncrasies. Focus on the positive in others.
When you are reconnecting with people, greet them directly and warmly. Ask simple open ended questions but don’t pry. There is often no need to evaluate what they say or respond, just to listen with empathy and understanding.
Do not go outside of your boundaries. Do not defend yourself if challenged. Just agree to disagree. Do not try to control or persuade others about old or new issues. Do not get drawn into an argument in a family gathering even if you have stake in the issue. It is not the time or the place.
Remember the reason you celebrate holidays. They should be a time to celebrate the wondrous healing power of hope for the future. Holidays should be about celebrating the value of relationships. If your family relationships have not been well cared for, holiday time is a good time to start your part in this. Medical science has shown that we are happiest and healthiest if our relationships are healthy. Attaining optimal nutrition, fitness, and physical health are not easy. These take considerable learning, patience, and routine. Relationship health is no different.