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.















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

Being with family over the holidays can be very stressful. Here are some strategies for taking charge and directly managing the stress that this time of the year can bring.

imagesBe 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.

Click here to read the rest of the article.

Counseling Relationships Online

December 20, 2012 Posted by | Adult Children, family communication, family holidays, holidays | Leave a comment

Test: Are You a Candidate for Holiday Stress?


Test: Are You a Candidate for Holiday Stress?

Take this quiz to find out if you are a candidate for experiencing holiday stress.

The holidays are upon us.  For some, this is an exciting and wonderful time.  For others it is dreaded and avoided where ever possible.   For everyone, it can be a time of poor habits and self-care which quickly lead to holiday stress.

Too much to do and too many people to care for; or too little to do and too few people in your life can both add up to holiday stress and lead to physical, emotional or mental health problems.

Instructions for the holiday stress test:
To determine your score and see if you are a candidate for stress this holiday season, answer Yes or No to each of these questions.

Give yourself 5 points for each No statement on the holiday stress test.

  • I am able to be very realistic about what to expect from myself over the holidays.
  • I anticipate the holidays with genuine pleasure most of the time.
  • I know how to set a budget for holiday gifts and stick with it.
  • Christmas shopping and spending a lot of money on gifts are not the most important part of this season.

Click here to take the rest of the Holiday Stress Test.

Counseling Relationships Online

Couples Counseling of Louisville

December 4, 2012 Posted by | family holidays, Holiday blues, holidays | Leave a comment

Strategy Number 6: Beat the Holiday Blues by Honoring Rituals

Honor important old rituals and develop new ones. Rituals help promote a sense of well-being.  Old ones can provide a sense of continuity through times of transition while developing new ones aids in accommodating to new situations.

Evaluate which rituals you want to keep and consider developing any new ones that might mark the positive things about you or your life right now.

December 22, 2010 Posted by | family holidays, Holiday blues, loneliness, rituals | Leave a comment

Strategy Number 4: Beat the Holiday Blues by Joining Others

Find a way to be around other people.  Look for groups through your community, neighborhood, church, synagogue or volunteer organization.

You don’t have to be with crowds and, unless you have family, probably not around others with family.

Look for opportunities to connect with others who might be in a situation similar to your own rather than with people who are bonded with others.

Look for others who emphasize the goodness about you rather than what is missing.

Counseling Relationships Online

Healing from Affairs

Couples Counseling of Louisville

December 16, 2010 Posted by | Holiday blues, holidays, loneliness | Leave a comment

Strategy Number 3: Beat the Holiday Blues by Doing for Others

Do something for others.  Putting your life’s situation in perspective can be helped by recognizing what others are experiencing.  While their situation may not even be as difficult as your own, focusing on someone else and taking the focus off of yourself can be an important mental health antidote for the holiday blues.  Besides, it feels good to help someone else and lift their own burden.

Bake cookies for neighbors.    Adopt a family from an angel tree.  Make some crafts and visit a nursing home.  Invite a niece or nephew to a holiday program.  Consider inviting those without family connections to your home for a holiday meal.

December 9, 2010 Posted by | depression, Holiday blues, holidays, loneliness, lonely | Leave a comment

Connect Through Rituals Over The Holidays

Holidays provide times for connection with multiple generations.

Grandparents have the opportunity to share some of the family history with their grandchildren.

This is a wonderful time to get out family holiday photos, play games that parents and grandparents played as children, for grandparents to share stories of their Christmases “long ago” and to make traditional holiday treats.

Some families have food that they only prepare at holiday times …  egg nog, a special cookie or coffee cake, or an ethnic dish from the oldest generation’s heritage.

Use this time to enrich family connection, even if you do not see as much of each other through the year as you would like.

Consider finding ways to include family members that live away and will not be home for the holidays.  Send old photos in ornaments, wrap up an old childhood memento, journal in a grandparent’s book.  Creatively think about ways to stay connected with each other.

The Richardsons pass the same holiday cards back and forth to each other every year, adding a short note about their lives.  It has become a record of family events for 23 years now.

Elaine and her sister have one silver holiday ball that they pass back and forth every year.  This ball is the kind in which you put some small gift.  Each tries to find something different and unique … and it is a nice tradition to show that they care about each other.

George and Jill send their grandchildren photos taken over the year of them all together.  Their mother helps them to keep them in a book so that they have a record of history with their grandparents.

Have you found ideas to stay connected with your family that you can share with us here?

Counseling Relationships Online

Couples Counseling of Louisville

December 16, 2009 Posted by | family holidays, holidays, rituals | | Leave a comment

Another Low-Cost, High Affection Holiday Gift Idea

vinyl751Collect and burn a cd, especially made for your friend or family member.  Add one song that you chose because it reminds you of him or her … along with a note that explains why.

December 18, 2008 Posted by | family holidays, holidays, tough economic times | Leave a comment

Holidays in Tough Economic Times: One Family’s Story

Andy6a00d8357ada6869e2010535d759df970b and Cheryl prepared everyone in their family this year by telling them that they love them very much, would still be sharing presents, but they would all notice a difference.  Then they set about thinking of creative ways to celebrate simply.  Many of the gifts that they are giving have to do with time and their talent.  Hours of babysitting and coupons for casseroles are on the gift list.  Cheryl put together gift baskets with baked goods and baking supplies.  She was quite creative with jars of soup and cookie mix.  Andy offered coupons for yard work and snow shoveling and promised to take the initiative to schedule the work, not wait for the “ask”.

Finding ways to help their children understand the simpler Christmas, they began talking about it weeks in advance.  They helped each child find a way to make gifts or coupons for their siblings and gave them each a chance to earn a little money so that they could purchase something very small as well.  Getting the children in the mindset of living simpler, they also helped them gather older toys that were still in good condition, cleaned them up and found a way to donate them to others in need.  As they worked on this project, Cheryl and Andy talked about the changes happening in our world and in their lives.  They also spent a lot of time talking about what have been the gifts in their family and in each one of them.

As we near Christmas, the children are preparing for things to be simpler.  There will still be a few special presents under the tree.  Cheryl has done quite a bit of research on-line and is quite adept at finding the many different coupon and price comparison websites.  She has even found a few things at consignment shops and both parents feel pretty sure that their children will be pleased with what the find under the tree Christmas morning.

Andy and Cheryl feel a little more light-hearted and really good about the life lessons that the children are learning.  Christmas will be very special for this family after all.

December 13, 2008 Posted by | family holidays, holidays, tough economic times | Leave a comment

Family Distance Over the Holidays

We have been hearing from lots of clients … and friends … about struggles that they are having as they have become emotionally distant from family.  The distance has arisen from conflict or misunderstandings and involves parents separated from their children and grandchildren, siblings who will not attend holiday gatherings if other family members are there and recently separated spouses who are terribly sad that they will not be with in-laws and extended family this year.

This is so disappointing and sad for many involved … especially those who have access to feelings other than anger and self-righteousness.  One of the most important things to do is to acknowledge that this would be hard for you … for anyone in your situation.  Allow yourself some time to grieve and feel sad, and then also to put aside, as best you can, those normal feelings and engage yourself with others who care for you.  Try not to pursue the ones that you are missing, while also looking for ways to keep the door open to mend the rupture.   Find ways to be useful, caring and loving to others at this holiday time as a way of taking some of the focus off of your own sadness.

Are there ideas that you can share with us … and others, about how to care for yourself during this difficult time?

December 12, 2008 Posted by | family holidays, holidays | Leave a comment