The holidays are filled with family gatherings to share the joy of the season. But along with these festive moments we may find ourselves in the middle of some stressful and awkward family moments.
Under the pressure of the season, and the heightened emotions that often come at this time of the year, an idyllic family gathering may become an awkward hot mess of emotion.
So, what do we do about these awkward family dynamics?
Here are some tips to assist you in keeping yourself grounded during the holidays so you really can enjoy the festive season.
- Be prepared. Accept that there will be ups and downs. Anticipate that the emotions are heightened during this time of the year, and you can expect a bit of a roller coaster. We can anticipate there will be high expectations, unwanted criticism and judgements along with all the interactions. Check in with your own discomfort, be realistic about what you might encounter and plan ahead, so you can best handle the inevitable awkward moments when they arrive.
- Align your expectations with reality. Do not set yourself up by aiming for the perfect Christmas with all the fixings and picture-perfect moments. The key to joy and happiness is to align our expectations with a probable reality. That way you are not disappointed, and you can then allow yourself to be present during the moment. Remember that we can count on the fact that family members bring out our strongest emotions – so with some forethought we can prepare for this.
- Be conscious about your priorities. Know what really is important and meaningful for you and then keep those priorities as your focus. Think about the top three priorities you have for the holidays, write these down and then try to stay the course.
- See the humour in the absurd moments. A good laugh at the absurdity of it all can go a long way. We would not have entertaining stories without those absurd and awkward moments. Remember that tragedy plus time often makes comedy.
- Don’t violate your own values. Feel what you feel, know what you know and set other free to do the same. Don’t waste energy on trying to get others to adhere to your value system. Stay away from the things that will trigger you and then set you off course from your priorities.
- Avoid hot topics and limit alcohol intake. There is no need to stir the pot and throw a bunch of alcohol in the pot as well. If you know a topic is going to get a reaction avoid this topic. If you are in a conversation that is starting to go wrong turn the corner or withdraw from it. Try not to mix too much alcohol into these moments as that can fuel things and make topics hotter than ever.
- Set you boundaries. It is ok to step back and know when to distance yourself from a situation that is going in the wrong direction, or a person who you are feeling annoyed with. Have your safe people you can debrief with later.
- Don’t try to control others. Any attempt to control others puts you at their mercy. Let go of control and focus on yourself and how you can best handle the situation.
- Be a participant observer. Be prepared to watch other and think of how you would report back to someone or how you would craft the funny story to tell others. This will give you some perspective and help you avoid the triggers that can pull us into a stressful interaction.
- Shift perspective and give others a break in advance. We all deserve love, grace and forgiveness. Although our family may we weird, wacky and imperfect accept who they are and be grateful for the moments we have, awkward or not!