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

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

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