Relationship Dilemma Remedies

A Blog About Solving Common Relationship Dilemmas

Holiday Family Stress and Tension

Thanksgiving Turkey

It is far from the truth that families really like each other. Not all conversation and relationships are loving, easy and nurturing.

Family stress and differences affect celebrations and make holiday gatherings difficult in many families.  In-laws that you may not particularly care for, relatives that you do not see often or know well, and changes in families because of separation, divorce or new partners can lead to unease and difficult times.

Planning ahead can help.  “Forewarned is forearmed“, as the old saying goes.

Think ahead about the gatherings and imagine how they may go.  Visualize the “best case scenarios” and the “worse case scenarios”.   Set realistic expectations for them. Talk, plan and strategize with those you love most about how to help and support each other if things get difficult.

Here are a few other suggestions to consider as you plan for family holiday events.

 Are you the host or hostess?

If you are the one who is in charge, you can have some control over the situation.  Here are some ideas to make the experience the best that it can be.

1. Brush up on your own communication and conflict resolution skills. Find ways to keep your own cool.  Learn some words and phrases to use that might ease tension.  You will have to think of ones that fit your specific family situation and might include something like:

“We are all different in our ideas.  Let’s not try to convince each other to change his or her thinking on this special day.  We only see each other a few times a year.  Let’s create good memories and appreciate what we do have in common and like about each other.”  Then quickly offer a new idea for the conversation.

2. Take leadership before and during the event and set a positive tone.

3. Plan some kind of an activity or conversation starters.

  • Gather old family photos and get people to share stories. Keep the conversation light and find ways to reminisce about happy times.
  • Interview the oldest generation about their childhood memories.
  • Play a family trivia game.
  • Be creative as you think up ways to keep the conversation headed in a good direction.
  • We plan to turn our old videos to dvds for each family and watch a little old time television. We hope that all of the generations will get a smile from some of the clips of our childhood.

4. Enlist a few other trusted relatives as your aides to keep the conversation flowing in a good direction and deflect tension and stress.

5. Remember, when people talk about themselves, they generally feel appreciated and this might help them to be more positive with others. Spend time, or get one of your co-conspirators to spend time, with those relatives who might be more critical or difficult.  Help them to feel special by showing interest in what is going on with them and in their life.

Will you attend rather than host events?

  1. Find small messages to say to yourself to remember that you are okay and that winning an argument or “putting someone in their place” is not healthy for you in the long run.
  1. Take leadership in your actions and your responses. Promise yourself that you will not get into arguments or take negative responses personally.  (Is it more important to have family harmony or to win an argument?)
  1. If there are relatives that bother or irritate you, find ways to politely avoid them. You don’t have to hang out with people that you do not like and with whom you do not get along.
  1. Avoid divisive subjects. Find ways to change the discussion or even leave the room.  This is not a time to solve the world problems or dissect the latest election.
  1. Be positive and complimentary whenever you can. Don’t make things up, be realistic; however, remember that positivity breeds positivity and it may lead to a friendlier atmosphere for the family.
  1. Stand up for your spouse or children with your own family. If another family member makes a disparaging remark, calmly but directly, let them know that it is not okay with you to talk or treat your family in that way.  If at all possible, try not to get into a prolonged confrontation where apologies are demanded, often that leads to more conflict.  If you need to, find a way to leave the gathering early.
  1. Limit alcohol … or just don’t drink at all. You want to be able to leave the party with dignity and remember the positive ways that you handled yourself.

Remember, this is only for a short period of time.  You do not have to remain forever.  It will be over and you can go back to your safe, comfortable surroundings with those who love and respect you and share your ideas and values.

You can create a positive or an acceptable time for yourself.  You don’t have to let negativity and family tension overwhelm you.  Stay in charge of your thoughts and your “buttons”.  You cannot control what others say or do, you can be in charge of how you see, react or respond.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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November 9, 2016 Posted by | difficult in-laws, family holidays, Holiday blues, holidays, in-laws, Relationship Dilemmas, rituals | Leave a comment

Managing Family Holiday Stress

We are “smack dab“ in the middle of the holidays and find ourselves forced to spend a lot of time with family.  For many people this involves seeing relatives that they may only see at this time of the year.  We don’t always like or agree with all of our relatives which can bring about stress and tension for days, weeks or even longer before the events.  Some families take a very long time to be able to get past their holiday stressful experiences.

We, at Counseling Relationships Online, have pulled together some suggestions for how to think about and how to handle these gatherings.

Visualize the experience before you even go
.  Think about all of the possible difficult conversations or statements and make plans in your head or with your spouse about how to handle them.  Practice your responses which can be anything from silence to a simple statement or a prolonged conversation.  Planning for difficulties makes them less stressful.

Be positive and complimentary whenever you can
.  Don’t make things up, be realistic; however, remember that positivity breeds positivity and it may lead to a friendlier atmosphere for the family.

Avoid divisive subjects.  Find ways to change the discussion or even leave the room.  This is not a time to solve the world problems or dissect the latest election.

Answer the question:  Is it more important to have family harmony or win an argument
?  Arguing rarely is helpful and yet it is important to stand up for yourself and sometimes for others.  Prolonging a discussion after making a statement may not be helpful in the long-run.  If you really need to state your opinion, do so respectfully, listen and then, if at all possible, find ways to let go.

Stand up for your spouse or children with your own family.
If another family member makes a disparaging remark, calmly but directly, let them know that it is not okay with you to talk or treat your family in that way.  If at all possible, try not to get into a prolonged confrontation where apologies are demanded, often that leads to more conflict.  If you need to, find a way to leave the gathering early.

Try to position yourself around the relatives that you like and enjoy.  Don’t make it too hard on yourself.  If you find Uncle Charlie irritating, be friendly, but then sit near others.  Remember, you don’t have to like everyone.

If alcohol is served, limit how much you drink. Plan to keep your good thinking in place.

Remember, this is only for a short period of time. You do not have to remain forever.  It will be over and you can go back to your safe, comfortable surroundings with those who love and respect you and share your ideas and values.

Please share tips with us of what you have learned that helps handle holiday stress and extended family by commenting on this blog.

December 17, 2009 Posted by | difficult in-laws, family holidays, Relationship Dilemmas | 2 Comments

In-Laws and Holidays

Ever since I first met Cindy’s mother, the going has been rough. She has never approved of me because I do not have a college degree and did not grow up in the “right neighborhood”. She makes no effort to be nice to me, except in front of Cindy. I have been able to hold my temper with her, mainly by avoiding contact with her. This has caused problems between Cindy and I, and especially at the holidays. Cindy and I are in a bad space right now because she wants me to go with her and the children to her mom’s this year and I really don’t want to go. I have been holding my ground thinking that her mother would be nicer, however, she is not willing to budge and just uses the time to talk bad about me to Cindy and now to our boys. Ideas for how to handle this?

This is really a tough question. Many times in-law problems are about both people … neither party open to giving in and making overtures to develop a relationship. That is not always the case; however, and then things get “sticky”.

You may not want to hear our advice … but you asked. Unless your mother-in-law is being verbally abusive, we encourage you to be the “bigger” person. Go for Cindy and for the children. Your relationship with them is really the most important thing here.

Be courteous to your mother-in-law and look for any sign that she might be trying to take a step in the right direction for her daughter and grandchildren. If you see any sign … even the slightest one, find a way to acknowledge it with a smile or a positive comment back. Look for opportunities to talk with others in the family so that you do not need to be around her so much of the time.

Talk with Cindy about how much time you want her by your side and ask for a commitment from her. When she is away, visit with the children or others in the family. Talk with Cindy and set a specific time to go home and ask her to agree that you will leave earlier if her mother becomes too disrespectful to you.

When you get home, congratulate yourself for your maturity and willingness to do your part in having a healthy marriage. Hopefully, Cindy will understand that this clearly an important sign of your love and commitment.

December 16, 2008 Posted by | difficult in-laws, family holidays, in-laws, tough economic times | Leave a comment