No Place Like Home For the Holidays? Navigating Challenging Family Relationships This Season

No Place Like Home For the Holidays? Navigating Challenging Family Relationships This Season

Very few of us are gifted with perfect families. Perhaps yours is so far from perfect they might be considered positively dysfunctional. Maybe there is a history of generational trauma, alcoholism or mental health struggles. Or maybe they just don’t behave well. Whatever the case, experience suggests that it IS possible to have a joyful holiday celebration in spite of the curveballs a difficult family may throw at you. Here are our tips:

Keep it Friendly

A great strategy is to stick to easy topics, keep things lighthearted and not dig up the past. Someone once suggested treating tricky people as if you were guests in a hotel lobby, casually chatting at the breakfast buffet – “Nice weather we are having!” While this might seem a bit superficial, it can be a sanity saver with tough family members and ensure you keep the peace.

Don’t Wade into Unwinnable Arguments

A great trick deployed in Al-Anon (the 12-step fellowship for the loved ones of alcoholics) is simply saying “You might be right” when there is a difference of opinions. You don’t have to win ‘em all. If your aunt Jo starts a long tirade about politics, it’s perfectly ok to not engage in a lengthy argument. In fact, it’s fine to say “You might be right” and bring the topic back to friendlier pastures. No harm, no foul. They are entitled to their opinions and you don’t have to change their minds. Of course, if you feel like it is your civic duty to offer an enlightening counterpoint – feel free. But keep it lighthearted, non-judgmental, and as friendly as possible.

Be of Service

When it doubt, help out. To avoid messy arguments, questions about when you are finally having kids, and other touchy subjects, stay busy! Wash dishes, help with the cooking, play with the dogs, and keep the kids out of trouble. No one need know you’re avoiding them – you’ll just look like an altruistic soul who is in the holiday spirit.

Grin and Bear it

Another great tip from our pals at Al-Anon is don’t expect too much. As they say, you wouldn’t ask someone with no legs to go running. Many of our most difficult family members do mean well, but just lack the skills or ability to behave differently. Simply letting them off the hook for their imperfections can be immensely freeing and allow you to enjoy the parts of the holiday that are pleasant. Shift your focus to finding small things to be grateful for and you’ll have a better day.

…But Don’t Overstay

There’s no need to turn your holiday into a marathon of endurance. When you’ve had enough, it’s ok to leave. Especially if you are in recovery and things start to get a bit wild. If you’ve made an appearance, offered some pleasantries, and socialized a bit, it is ok to excuse yourself. Easy does it – with tough families, sometimes small doses are best.

Wherever you find yourself this holiday season, we wish you luck! Everyone at SLO Recovery wishes you and yours many happy and healthy holidays to come!