6 ways to manage family conflict during the holidays
These are some of the best tips to make the holidays more bearable.
Don't let the Hallmark commercials fool you: Being around family for the holidays can sometimes be stressful and emotional. Old conflicts come up, money may be tight and kids can create a tremendous amount of stress despite loving them. Below, Yahoo Canada has rounded up some of the ways you can manage family conflict this season.
1. Keep realistic expectations
While movies and pop culture might try to convince you everyones Christmas is picture-perfect, that's not the reality.
More people are estranged from their families than ever before, while other families argue about everything from Christmas day board games to which in-laws to visit.
So, if you're feeling conflicted about your family during the holidays, you're not alone!
2. Talk about boundaries in advance
Not everyone has the kind of family that talks about life. But as awkward as it might be, an up-front conversation is one of the best ways to avoid conflict.
If there's something you think will be particularly fraught (COVID-19 protocols, anyone?), check in beforehand about everyone's expectations. That way you all have a bit more distance to process how you feel and come to a compromise.
3. Validate peoples's emotions
This can be a tough one. Many people incorrectly equate validation with agreeing, but that's not how it works.
Validating someone's emotional reality doesn't mean you agree with them. You can still be adamantly against what they believe. You can find their opinions abhorrent. But if you acknowledge their emotions are real, you can at least maintain a human connection.
For instance, instead of blowing up at a family member about their stance on this-or-that political issue, focus on emotional realities. If at all possible, offer understanding. You might not agree that it's the right response, but validation is powerful. It's proven to put people in a better mood.
4. Think before you speak
When tensions are running high, it can be hard to take a step back and decide not to engage. No one knows how to get under your skin like your family, and it's tempting to give the same right back.
But don't pour fuel on the fire. A single angry comment can have repercussions for days — or even much longer. Think through your words and the effect they might have if someone takes offence.
That doesn't mean you have to lie — just reflect on what you want to say. If you take a beat to think about what you mean and how to say it kindly, people notice. Chances are, they'll trust you more because they know you're working hard to speak the truth.
If you struggle, use the T.H.I.N.K acronym:
Is it True?
Is it Helpful?
Is it Inspiring? (Does it Improve on saying nothing?)
Is it Necessary?
Is it Kind?
If you have to answer "no" to any of those questions, stay quiet until you can. Maybe you just need to rework your words.
5. Set boundaries
At this point you might be thinking, "OK, but what about the rest of the family?"
You can't control what everyone else says or how they say it. But you also don't have to take someone else's abuse. De-escalation does not mean becoming the family doormat.
If you have family members who like to push everyone else's buttons, come prepared with one-liners to diffuse their nastiness. The second someone insults you (or someone else), cut them off. A simple, "I can't let you talk to me like that" usually suffices — if you stick to it.
Also, don't be afraid to walk away if necessary. It's better to end the conversation and avoid another family fight than inflame it.
6. Give people space
You may be far removed from the kids's table, but everyone needs a timeout now and then. If things start to get heated, or you think they might be headed that way, give everybody the chance to step away for a while.
You might even decide to build some "me time" into your family celebrations. Even if you haven't seen your relatives all year, you don't need to spend every moment together to bond.