As we approach the holiday season many of us are facing an additional
source of stress outside of purchasing presents, tackling Turkey Trots, or
coordinating Christmas cooking. The architect of that anxiety? Family. While
some may find time with their families a source of joy and relaxation, others
know that season’s greetings can quickly turn to rehashing seasoned
Encountering difficult family members during the holidays can make it
hard to enjoy the life-giving elements of the season, and experiences may
have taught you that reaching a peaceful agreement cannot be
accomplished without a mutual desire for change. We can only control how
we respond and, as a result, sometimes the biggest wins we can ask for when
navigating tough encounters with difficult family members come from
within. Below are a few helpful “wins” to consider if you find yourself in
conflict this season:
Win #1: You’ve expressed yourself clearly and concisely.
When a desire for connection and understanding is present (as is
usually the case with family) our pursuit to be understood can get us mired
down in the details. We can talk ourselves into a tizzy and, at the end of the
day, that person may be committed to misunderstanding us regardless of our
attempts. When faced with this situation we can focus our communication
efforts on getting our point across with clarity and tact so that, regardless of
how the other person responds, we know that we did our best to
Win #2: You’ve managed your emotions well.
Do you find yourself getting hotter than the Thanksgiving turkey when
an argument breaks out around the dinner table? Maybe you’re more of a
cold-as-ice type when someone is trying to jingle your bells. Either way, our
emotions can get the best of us during the high-tension holidays and there’s
a good chance we’ve all walked away from a family get-together regretting
how we responded. No one enjoys feeling like that “particular person” has
pressed our buttons yet again, so taking time prior to a gathering to work on
some emotional regulation skills can go a long way towards maintaining your
personal peace in the midst of the Christmas chaos.
Win #3: You’ve set and stuck to boundaries.
Healthy boundary-setting could be an entire blog post in itself (In fact,
here is one for reference!). Some people find their family members chipping
away at or outright invalidating their boundaries during the holidays. For
example, when you planned to leave the gathering (“Oh come on-the kids
want to stay! Tell mommy you don’t want to leave grandma’s house.”) or who
comes to visit (“I know I didn’t tell you I was bringing my boyfriend but it’s not
that big of a deal”). Whether the boundary being set is big or small, the first
person to uphold it will be ourselves. To quote the linked article by Logan
Hailey, “Brene Brown says: “Clear is kind, unclear is unkind.” The more precise
you can express your boundaries, the more likely your boundaries will be
respected. While you may need to repeat yourself a few times, don’t feel the
need to apologize or explain your boundaries.”.
Whatever the outcome, you can be proud of yourself for expressing and
upholding your boundaries.
We here at Cornerstone Counseling and Wellness know that this time of year
can be full of mixed emotions. We would be happy to help you untangle
them so that you can enjoy your holidays to the fullest. Please contact us
through the “Request an Appointment” tab at the top of this webpage.
Chowdhury, M. R. (2022, September 8). Emotional regulation: 6 key skills
to regulate emotions. PositivePsychology.com. Retrieved October 26,
2022, from https://positivepsychology.com/emotion-regulation/#skills
Hailey, L. (2022, May 11). How to set boundaries: 5 ways to draw the line
politely. Science of People. Retrieved October 26, 2022, from