It’s the time of year when many of us love to watch Christmas and holiday movies. Although many of them are ‘feel good’ movies there are many that try to cash in on the humor of how dysfunctional families are, seemingly, especially over the holidays! (National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation jumps to mind.)
So, let’s talk strategy for surviving the holidays and still liking your family after (and yourself).
One fact that complicates family get togethers is that we tend to fall in to treating each other like we have for years, not seeing or acknowledging the growth in others or ourselves. I’m 50 but I still feel like the little sister. (I am “the baby”.)
Even if we have grown to be much more assertive and healthy in other relationships and settings somehow that seems to go out the window with some family members.
Strategy #1 - Make a list ahead of time of the areas where you can predict tension and violations of your wishes and boundaries.
Anticipating the battle areas and putting some forethought in to how you want to handle them allows you to be less defensive when they actually happen.
Strategy #2 - Prioritize your battles and be willing to let the less important ones slide.
If we want to fight on everything we just get so riled up that the least little infraction becomes a big deal. Some things are just annoying but not really personal affronts. Perhaps it’s cleaning up after family members who never seem to put things away or perhaps it’s putting up with family members who have your mug in the dishwasher before you even finish your coffee.
Strategy #3 - Practice what you want to say around key areas before it happens.
When we take time to thoughtfully put a statement or question together before the emotions are running high we can be heard better and reduce the chance of raising the other person’s defensiveness. This can include clarifying your preferences ahead of time before the issue actually arises. Perhaps you are entering the holidays on a gluten-free diet and want to pre-inform people so they aren’t offended when you don’t eat their delicious cookies.
Strategy #4 - Create a refresh button for yourself.
When we are calm we can have much better perspective on what really matters. If you are anticipating a lot of relational stress writing out a clear perspective statement for yourself might really help. This can be in the form of a question, such as “3 weeks from now what about this will really matter?”. Perhaps this statement or questions becomes your wallpaper on your phone for a couple weeks, lol.
Strategy #5 - Build in breaks.
In my family of origin there was an unspoken rule that once you arrived you shouldn’t want to leave to do stuff on your own. It was hard for me to learn to ignore that rule and get out of the house for breaks. Those breaks allowed me to decompress and be able to stay open to relating.
Well, I hope that some of you reading this won’t be able to relate at all. But for all of you, I hope that as you enter the holiday season that you find time to relax, reflect, dream, celebrate and be grateful.
Posted on Thu, December 17, 2015
by Marilyn Orr filed under