Holidays are a time for friends, family and food, right? Once we get past all the stress of decorating, shopping, cooking and getting the food on the table, all we have to do is sit down and enjoy ourselves with our loved ones. Well, we wish it was as simple as that. Some of us may have perfect families, but for a lot of people, spending time with the whole family means conflict, judgement and a lot of tense smiling. Ah, the joy the holidays.
There’s no quick fix for an unhealthy family dynamic. If there are issues here, they’re likely deep-seated and shouldn’t be brought up when you’re a few cocktails deep and everyone else is just trying to enjoy their turkey. What is one to do though? Just accept that you’ll never get along with your mother-in-law and pretend you don’t notice all your cousin’s microaggressions? Not necessarily, but you need to be careful. We’re in dangerous waters here.
Resolve it later, but do resolve it
Christmas dinner is not the time to confront your mother about how she questions your parenting. That’s not a conversation that needs to happen in front of others or while you’re intoxicated. But if it’s a big issue every time the family gets together, you need to address it at some point. For big issues, put a pin in them and come back to them in the new year. That will give you time to think about it, approach the person in private and take the time to really talk it out.
Use your allies
Find sanity where you can and stick close to the people you know you can count on. If an eye-roll at grandma or an arm wrapped around your sister is what gets you through when other family members are being less-than-cordial, so be it. You can always vent later. It’s better than exploding in front of everyone.
Take a minute to check that you’re not the problem. Sure, everybody in your family is the worst, but if that’s the case, maybe the issue is you. Take a look back at how you talk to your family. Are you guilty of starting fights or making biting comments too? If you are, maybe you need to lead by example and cut it out.
Remember other people’s insecurities
Nearly every negative comment comes from a place of insecurity. While knowing where other people feel inadequate is a great way to have the most damaging dig at the table, you should use that knowledge for good instead of evil. It will go a long way to remember that your sister’s comment about your job is just because she’s unhappy with her own. It doesn’t give her any right to say it, but at least you know where it’s coming from. Don’t say that out loud though.
We’re here to celebrate and enjoy each other’s company. Go in with the attitude that everyone is going to have a great time. Ignore tense moments and hateful comments — we’ve already decided you’re dealing with those later. A positive attitude goes a long way. Who knows, maybe your positive energy will catch on.