13 Tips To Survive The Dysfunctional Holiday Gathering
For many people, going home for the holidays isn’t always fun.
December 25, 2016 at 11:35 am
It's romanticized in holiday movies, on greeting cards, and in adorable seasonal commercials, but for many people, going home for the holidays isn’t always fun. Even the most level-headed individual can find themselves drained at the prospect of re-entering family dynamics wrought with unreconciled conflict. Whether you were placed on a pedestal or made to feel like you could never do anything right, the pressures of spending time with family can catapult you right back to the emotional space of your teenage self.
If, as we speak, you are plotting your escape from the obligatory holiday family function, here are 13 tips to make the best of a challenging situation:
1. Reality Check
It doesn’t matter how old you are, what you’ve accomplished or who you are today, there’s something about being at home with family that can make you revert to your teenage self again. Reality check, you’re not a kid anymore. This dynamic is only as powerful as you make it.
You know what’s coming. Dad is going to mention that you’ve gained some weight. Mom will come with the questions about your non-existent love life, and sister will follow up with a barrage of passive-aggressive digs. How will you respond?
It’s unlikely that those ingrained family patterns are miraculously going to change this year. Take a second to think through the most likely scenarios and mentally prepare responses to each one.
4. Make A Choice
Just know that whatever response you choose will have consequences. Are you going to pop off or be the bigger person? Will you call out every offense or will you let some things slide? The choice is yours.
5. Manage Your Expectations
The likelihood that your entire family dynamic has changed since last year is slim to zero. Unless Iyanla is available to fix your lives, you’re probably not going to undo a lifetime of dysfunction in one sitting. It is what it is. Adjust expectations and try to love people where they are.
6. Know Your Role
Families are defined by roles. What was yours? Were you momma’s baby, the scapegoat or the invisible one? Once scripts have been assigned, playing your role can become second nature.
7. Flip the script
If your assigned role no longer suits you, change it. You don’t necessarily have to make a big announcement, just go back with different behaviors.
8. Take Your Temperature
Check your emotional barometer. What are you feeling right now? Is every offense being magnified through the leftover grudge from the last family gathering? If you keep letting it build up, it’s only a matter of time before you explode. Dealing with where you are emotionally at any given moment will help you to control yourself and your reactions.
9. Take Breaks
If you feel yourself getting heated, don’t be afraid to excuse yourself for a hot minute. Go for a walk. Take a nap. Make yourself the designated errand runner.
10. See The Other Side
If they are displaying unkind or toxic behavior, ask yourself why? Try to see things from their perspective. What role have they had to play? How might that have affected them? You may not be the only person struggling through this reunion. Have some compassion. Put yourself in their shoes.
11. Look At Yourself
Could you be the toxic person in this situation? How are you being experienced by the people around you? Practice self-awareness and don’t be afraid to check yourself if necessary.
12. Maintain Boundaries
Showing empathy and having a measure of self-awareness is by no means a free pass to let people walk all over you. Don’t be afraid to speak up for yourself and protect your boundaries.
13. You're In Control
You’re a grown up now. If your family is extremely dysfunctional, don’t feel obligated to subject yourself to that kind of abuse.
There is no such thing as a perfect family. Fix your plate, play with the kids, accept people for who they are and take comfort in knowing that you are not alone. Happy Holidays!
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