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How I Survive the Dysfunction, Anger, Tension, and Resentment During Family Holiday Gatherings
Love the Holidays except for when it is time for the traditional holiday family gathering? So how do survive the holiday gatherings with your crazy family without going crazy yourself? I will share the eight tips that I learned over the years.
1.Release Your Expectations
Stop expecting your family member to change, remain hopeful, wish them well and mean it, pray for them, but release them of how you think they should be, how they should behave, etc……..Accept them for who they are. They are not the ones who have to change because right now this how they are choosing to live their life. If you are bothered by it, you have to change how you respond, react, and what you expect. This is not to say that they may need to change, that you are right for your concerns and irritation, but you cannot make anyone change. You can only be responsible for yourself and maybe by being an example of something different, something positive you can inspire them to want more and to be more. Just as no one can make you see what you don’t want to see or believe, the rules doesn’t change because the roles of the players does. Look on the bright side at least you know what to expect.
2.Setup a plan
Develop a plan so that you won’t be caught if guard if you have to make quick decision to leave. That way whatever you decide to do won’t be in haste but in grace (and fast, because you have already thought out what you were going to do)
Have an exit plan. Maybe you will only stay for 2 hours instead of the whole 4 or 5. Stick to your time, if you set one. If you stay beyond your schedule because you are having so much fun and then next thing you know into hour 3, everything went North, don’t get upset, take it as a lesson learned to honor yourself and stick to your guns.
If you have children, make sure they know ahead of time you do not plan to stay long so went you say it is time to go, they will not be in shock. Although, they may still be upset because they are having a ball, they will be prepared and getting them together in between complaints, questions, and bargaining, it will not be as long as if they wasn’t expecting possibly leaving early.
Slide in somewhere within the conversation that you are not staying long. Give an excuse if you want, say you promised a good friend that you would visit them this year. Matter-of-fact, make plans to visit someone else so that it would not be a lie, this may appease the kids, and you are not going back home bored, wondering if you made the right call.
Make sure you drove yourself so you don’t have to wait for a ride to pick you up in the midst of the turmoil
If you want to try and stretch your stay but your last nerve is being worked triple time, considering going outside to get some air, maybe go on a store run, have a friend that you can call and vent to
Maybe even consider, if you aren’t too embarrass at what may occur, bring a friend or your mate as support, someone to talk to, and vent to.
Choose when you will arrive. This can be key. If you know things are generally smooth at the beginning, middle, or end of the family gathering…..pick your time wisely, taking into consideration of your schedule time limit of your duration.
3. Create your atmosphere
After you develop your plan of action, begin to create your atmosphere, as you are getting ready for the gathering.
Play your favorite music, as you are getting dressed, even in the car
Say an affirmation to yourself and use that to reel yourself back in if you see that you are losing your mood. Declare it is going to be a good day.
Sleep. If you are lacking sleep, you are going to be already cranky yourself so it may not take much to get upset or maybe you may be the aggressor who sets someone else off due to the lack of sleep.
Breathe. Sometimes that is all it takes, a nice deep inhale and exhale.
4. Kill them with kindness
Always speak. Regardless, if they are the black sheep, the troublemaker, the one that get on your nerves, you stopped talking to them, or if they stop talking to you. Even if the last time you saw your cousin, your aunt, or even your mother, you had a horrible argument and as you walk into the house, lock eyes and you are thinking; drop dead, and they are looking at you with looks that could kills, say hello still. Maybe even throw in a Happy Holiday and how have you been. Ok, so if that is pushing it, just say hello but with a smile. If you don’t speak, chances are they will not either and the tone is set for the evening between you two and everybody else because they have picked up on the tension and now the vibe has been shifted. Then if they speak and you don’t respond, even if you have just reason not to, you are going to look like the bad guy and they now have the upper hand and the vibe is still shifted.
Be courteous and polite just because it is the right things to do…if it applies, excuse me, thank you, you’re welcome can go far even if it doesn’t seem like it. It shows your growth and maturity, not theirs.
5.Know your limits
Keep conversations to a minimum with certain people. If you know your aunt always brings up why you are not married, or if your uncle is a jerk or condescending, or maybe there is an alcoholic in the family, then outside of hello and MAYBE a few additional sentences, leave it at that. If you can become more aggressive after a few sips, then you may want to reconsider drinking at all or setting a limit for yourself.
Do not engage in conversations that you know will lead to a dead end. Touchy subjects, personal topics, past situations should be off table for discussion.
Stay in a different area of the house. If you know Grandma is in one part and she pushes your buttons, go to another part and hang out there.
6.Be aware of surroundings that may lead to altercations between you or others
You know what warning signs to look for when things are headed in the wrong direction. Don’t sit back and wait or even watch, for what you know to be true to manifest, choose that time to leave and bow out before things escalate. This includes potential incidents that do not include you but other family members.
7.Choose your battles
You have to decide. I am not encouraging you to be anybody’s doormat and tolerate disrespect but you know if it is even worth or not to get into an altercation. Put your ego aside and use your sense.
Save your emotions for the car or for a friend who you can talk to when you leave.
8.Listen to your intuition, honor yourself and just don’t go
If doing all of these maneuver doesn’t seem worth the hassle or work—don’t go
If you are just sick and tired and it is becoming draining on you, don’t go
If you have this feeling that you shouldn’t go, don’t
If you really want to go because you truly love your family and you do want to spend time with them, especially during these festive seasons, then consider rotating the holidays. Maybe visit on Thanksgiving but pass on Christmas or vice versa.
Ultimately, don’t expect them or the situation to change-----You have to be the one to initiate change (within yourself) if for nothing else your well-being. It is going to require discipline and practice, because it isn’t a easy thing to do or an easy situation to be in, especially when it is our families that we are dealing with. Know that quite possibly, no matter what you do, someone may still be unhappy in some way. They may get mad if you leave early, if you don’t come, if you are not talking to them as much but to everyone else, maybe even angry because you spoke to them and you know that you aren’t on speaking terms. You can’t please them all, so do what is best for you. But above all, whether you go or not, leave early or stay the entire duration, take a friend, go out to your car and scream, maybe even get into an argument still………….love your family. They are who they are. Accept them, hold them accountable for their actions but accept them. Forgive them. Pray for them and wish them well. Make it your duty to try to set an example of love, inspiration, positivity, and be the light when things begin to get dark.