There’s nothing like getting back with your family during the holidays to stir up old resentments and issues that you thought you had overcome. Even those who have been in recovery for years have trouble when reuniting with a dysfunctional family during the holiday season. This is why it’s so important to have a strategy for surviving those get togethers well in place before you head out to your parent’s’ or relative’s house. These tips will hopefully make dealing with family a little easier this year, and every year to come.
1.Stop trying to change people.
When you have a dysfunctional family, there’s nothing you want more than to be able to change them. Their behavior, personalities, beliefs, quirks, or even just the way they treat you are some things we obsess over and wish there was some way we could transform or make disappear. Unfortunately, none if it is possible, no matter how hard we wish for it. The first step to making the most of a dysfunctional family is realizing that they will never be perfect. The harder we try to change them, the harder it will be to spend the holidays with them.
Instead, try sitting down before you head to a family gathering and think of all the things that bother you about each family member. Then make an effort to accept those things about each person. You’ll find that being in their presence is no longer as excruciating, and the stress of being with family is significantly minimized. You want your family to accept you the way you are, so why not try doing the same for them.
2. Set your boundaries.
This is another important one for spending time with a less than perfect family. Now that you know family members can’t be changed, it’s a good idea to decide what things you do have control over and how you can go about changing them. This means changing the way you interact with your family yourself. Decide how much time you can tolerate with them and set limits. The same goes for intimacy. Which family members do you feel comfortable sharing more of yourself with than others? Decide to set these boundaries beforehand to avoid added stress or confusion during a gathering.
3. Gain some perspective.
This means practicing what it would be like to observe your family from an outsider’s point of view. Doing so gives you a different perspective and helps keeps you from getting too emotionally caught up in the goings on of your family’s dysfunction. Some ways to do this include having a few friends to talk about your family with after the holidays are over, looking at your family in a humorous way, or making a checklist of the things that always happen at gatherings that bother you, and then checking them off as they occur. This can be a good way to inject humor and fun into your family holidays.
4. Talk to someone.
Experts agree that a little bit of venting is actually good for our mental health. find a trusted friend, therapist, or even a family member that you can talk to after the holidays. You’ll find that having just that little bit of extra support makes surviving the season so much easier. You’ll be able to walk away from every gathering feeling a little more level and clear headed than before.