Navigating Family Dynamics Over the Holidays

Posted on by Yardstick Administrator. Posted in Blog, Seasonal.
Family Christmas

Alyson Jones appeared on CTV on Dec 21, 2022 to discuss challenges and solutions for “Navigating Family Dynamics Over the Holidays”. This article provides a summary of what is discussed. But, please feel free to watch the video on

Here are the main talking points:

For many extended families it is the first return to large celebrations in awhile. What is the best way to break the ice with relatives you are not so close to?

  • It is ok to keep things casual – but use your curiosity. Curiosity can be your best friend at social functions.
  • People always like when you are interested in their life. Ask them questions. How have they been? Have they had any adventures? Share what you want to share about your life – but no need to overshare.
  • Gauge your comfort level and go from there.
  • Manage your expectations. Accept that there may be ups and downs and that this time of the year can be a bit of an emotional roller coaster.

Is it good to research on social media about relatives for conversation starters?

  • It is always good to be informed, but social media is not necessarily a true reflection of that person – so do not depend on it too much.

If topics of conversation come up like masking, vaccines, freedom protests – how should you participate?

  • Gauge the company you are with.
  • Try not to be provocative, but it is ok to answer honestly when asked your experience or thoughts.
  • Be careful not be make righteous or strident points that will make those around you feel judged. Nobody likes to be judged.
  • As the conversation proceeds you will get a better sense of how far you want to go with your own sharing.
  • If issues come up look for solutions rather than add to the complaints. Just because someone else is begin negative or righteous does not mean you have to get caught up in a negative emotion or power struggle.

If you have challenges with a relative – for example an archaic (perhaps racist) inappropriate comment at the dinner table – should you react?

  • Do not react as that could deregulate you emotionally and trigger interpersonal conflict – but it is ok to respond.
  • It is ok to stand up for what you believe in and there are certain things we should not tolerate. The threshold of what can be tolerated is different for different people – so stay aware of your own threshold and stay true to you – but stay tuned into the situation and others around as well.
  • If you validate that others have the right to their opinion (even if you do not agree) then it can disarm a potentially upsetting situation.
  • Say “This is important to me, and I understand we see things differently – but I prefer not to discuss this as today is a holiday and I would like to concentrate on connection and gratitude.”
  • “Let’s agree to disagree and move on”.
  • “I believe it is important to stand up for our beliefs, but I also want to be honouring of everyone here and feel we should move to a different discussion.”

Visiting with the in-laws (guilt trips, passive aggressive comments)

  • Do not take everything personally.
  • Try not to get triggered by the remarks that may lack sensitivity.
  • Try not to get caught in explaining yourself or defending your actions.
  • You can smile and nod and move on without saying much at all.
  • Try to predict the conversation if things are getting intense.
  • If someone is giving you advice you don’t want or making comments you don’t appreciate – just politely acknowledge and move on. This is not the time to get into or resolve big family issues or dynamics.

Thank you everyone for another wonderful year. We wish you and yours a safe and happy holiday season.