One of the things many people dread about the Christmas season is having to deal with difficult family members. Though the holidays are a time for families to reunite, with distant relatives seeing each other once again, the experience of dealing with certain family members can be daunting for those that have poor relationships within the group. Some people may choose to ignore the problems and carry a smile throughout the celebration, while others may use the holidays as an excuse to start an argument. It is this unpredictable behavior that makes many people nervous and edgy during holiday family gatherings.
If you find yourself tense about dealing with challenging family members during the upcoming holidays, here are some tips to get you through without the usual anxiety.
Prepare Ahead of Time
To properly deal with argumentative or difficult family members, you have to mentally prepare yourself ahead of time. Do not just throw yourself into the lion’s den on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Instead, think ahead about how you will behave towards those members of the family with whom you do not typically get along well. Also, consider what types of conversations you will be comfortable having, how you will respond to any sort of questioning about yourself and your life, and how much you are willing to tolerate.
Have an exit strategy ready as well, so that if things get to be too much for you to handle, you have an excuse to get out of there. For example, if you are married, you can say you have plans to catch dessert at your in-laws’ house, and this is the perfect way to leave after dinner is over, cutting the time you need to spend in an uncomfortable situation short.
Accept Yourself and Your Family As They Are
You need to learn to accept yourself as you are, regardless of what your family may think of you or have to say to you about how you are living your life, what your job is, how you decide to dress, etc. And, in the same way, you need to accept your family members for who they are. Have an open mind, practice patience, and begin to accept people for both their positive attributes as well as their flaws. This will make it so much easier to deal with difficult family members during your holiday gatherings.
If you know certain family members have irritating qualities, do not be surprised that you are irritated by them when they are in your presence. But if you can just accept those qualities as part of their unique personalities, you can just take them for who they are, and nothing more. Relationships are said to be mirrors of ourselves. Some of the annoying things you recognize and dislike about others may be traits that you, yourself, have, and which you try to not recognize in yourself. Reflect upon who you are and why certain people in your family rub you the wrong way. Then, take a step back and realize that everyone is equal and everyone deserves love. This perspective should allow you to approach a holiday gathering from a more positive standpoint.
One of the most uncomfortable situations that can occur at a holiday gathering is an argument between two relatives who have a history of not getting along. You may very well be one of those people who always ends up in a verbal fight with a particular family member. Avoid such conflicts by simply avoiding those relatives. Say hello cordially and perhaps make some small talk, but leave it at that. Stay on opposite ends of the room, if necessary. If you know that there are others in the family who do not get along, you may help them keep their distance from one another to help stave off a conflict.
An easy way to exchange gifts amongst feuding family members is through a grab bag or by following a Secret Santa system. Secret Santa ideas are easy to come up with, whether you are shopping for a niece or a grandmother, and this form of indiscriminate gift giving makes sure everyone gets something they will enjoy. Plus you never know, if you really do take the time to choose a gift for someone that you don’t get on well with and they really love it (and find out who bought it for them) you may just end up becoming the best of friends by the end of the Christmas period – it has happened before!
By planning in advance for the holidays, whether by drawing up a list of secret Santa ideas or coming up with the perfect exit strategy, you are sure to have a much better time on Christmas day itself.