Are you trying to navigate holiday family time with as little drama and toxicity as possible this year?
If so, you’re not weird or a freak for worrying about this. Such worries are extremely common and very real!
Family interactions should enhance the vitality of your family, not lessen it. If you’re afraid that isn’t going to happen, you likely have valid examples from past family interactions that are cause for concern.
As the holiday season approaches, here are some things to keep in mind to ensure things run smoothly.
Your First Priority is to Keep Your Immediate Family Healthy
It’s understandable to try and make family happy. However, this should never come at the expense of your chosen partner or immediate family.
The first thing to remember is that boundaries will be challenged this time of the year. Filter every decision through what’s best for you and your partner and family.
Be sure that you and your partner are on the same page. You don’t want to add any stress to the natural stress the holidays can cause.
If you can’t agree on how to do this as a couple, seek out an unbiased mediator to help you come to a conclusion. Of course a mediator can be one of the DCNE staff but you might also have a trusted friend or family member who can support you.
Some of the things to discuss include:
How long to spend time with extended family
How can you build your own family memories without them being infringed upon by demands from in-laws, etc?
Do we have the time/finances to visit certain family members?
How to resolve conflict with family beforehand
Should We Avoid Spending Time with Certain Family Members?
This is a hard one! The best way to arrive at a conclusion is to ask the following question:
“Will spending time with this family member(s) cause more harm than good?”
If the answer is yes, then it’s best to avoid interaction with unusually toxic family members – even though it may be sad or hard to skip a family duty.
However, things aren’t always so cut and dry. For that reason, your family may be able to compromise by finding ways to minimize toxicity such as:
Deciding where to meet with family. A good place to meet when you know things are going to be stressful is a movie or a restaurant.
Perhaps one of you will attend a family gathering while the other does self-care.
Deciding whether to take children or how long to stay with them. It probably isn’t worth it to miss one of their naps or overload them.
Shortening the time you spend with difficult family members (having a good reason to leave early, for instance).
Setting ground rules such as a set time the gathering will begin and end.
Don’t Discuss Your Relational Problems with Family
The holidays are stressful for many. Some have to deal with grief, unusually busy schedules, financial concerns, relational challenges, the seasonal blues and more.
Because of these pressures, it can be very easy to go to the wrong people with your problems. This is especially the case when it comes to relational or work stress.
Sharing about your relational problems can be dangerous. Families will almost always side with kin. Additionally, the partner who isn’t kin may be villainized and attacked causing additional stress and pitting kin against kin or kin against chosen kin.
Remember that unless there is abuse going on, your loyalty should be with your partner. Support, defend, and protect each other.
The Center for Neurocognitive Excellence can help. Scheduling an appointment with us is quick and easy.