Tips for Managing Toxic Family Relationships During the Holidays
We all have that family member (maybe a few) who we dread seeing during the holidays. We want to enjoy our family celebrations and holiday traditions, but we may find ourselves getting caught up in dealing with these toxic family members more than we would like. If you’re dreading a holiday gathering this year because you have toxic family relationships, you’re not alone. Many people are dealing with the same struggles right now. In this blog, we’ll take a look at a few simple tips for managing toxic family relationships during the holidays and all year long.
1 – Be Prepared
Make a plan before you go to your family’s holiday gathering. This can help you feel a greater sense of control in a difficult situation and avoid unnecessary stress or anxiety leading up to the holiday event. You can’t control everything that happens during your family’s holiday gatherings, but you can have more control over your experience by taking steps like:
· Decide how long you’ll stay before you leave. If you need to have another event to go to so no one’s feelings get hurt, that’s fine, but remember it’s perfectly acceptable to just say you need to leave at a certain time.
· Pick your battles. You know what toxic behaviors you can deal with and which ones are dangerous or unacceptable. Ignoring certain behaviors doesn’t mean you’re condoning them. It just means you’re creating space for your own mental health during family gatherings by not pushing back and creating conflict related to every toxic comment or behavior.
· Set boundaries. Be firm and direct but set your boundary with kindness, which will make it easier for your loved one to accept. Setting boundaries can be difficulty. If you struggle with this, consider working with a therapist or a trusted friend who sets good boundaries to practice this skill before the holidays.
2 – Keep Your Expectations in Check
Many people find themselves believing that, this year, things are going to be different. This high expectation is almost certain to be untrue when it comes to dealing with toxic family relationships. Even if you go into the situation with a positive attitude ready to make the holidays great for everyone, your attitude is the only one you have any control over, and it’s not likely that everyone will suddenly be different this year. Go into the holidays with the knowledge that people will act the way they always do and prepare to deal with that.
3 – Limit Interactions with Toxic People
When you’re at the gathering, spend time with the family members who bring you joy. You don’t have to completely ignore toxic people, but you can create a plan to limit your time with them. You can take steps like:
· Have a friend you can text an SOS who will call to interrupt you if you can’t break away.
· Make a deal with another loved one at the gathering who will serve as a buffer if things get rough.
· Set boundaries (I know we already said this, but it bears repeating). Tell your toxic loved on that you’re not going to be discussing politics, your relationship status, your parenting skills, or whatever toxic subject that triggers your discomfort.
· Leave early. Remember you don’t need to stay to the very end of every family gathering. Leave when you’re ready to leave.
4 – Change the Subject
If your toxic family member keeps bringing up whatever topic creates tension, change the subject. One of the best ways to do this is to turn the tables. For instance, if a toxic family member is constantly belittling your career, ask them about their work, or turn to another family member and ask how their job is going. Try to keep the conversation light, but remember, you don’t have to talk about anything you don’t want to. Finally, if the family member continues criticizing your career despite your efforts to change the subject, you can set a boundary by saying, “I know you don’t care for my job, but I really enjoy it. Can we talk about something else?”
5 – Practice Good Self-Care
Finally, make sure you’re taking care of yourself before, during, and after holiday gatherings, so you feel stable and healthy throughout the stresses of the holidays. You can practice affirmations that repeat each day (and during family gatherings when things get rough) to remind you of your own self-worth. Make sure to eat healthy, exercise, and get plenty of sleep. Reserve the bulk of your time for loved ones and friends whose company you really enjoy. You can also make time for therapy sessions at Lotus Psychology Group to help you develop skills to manage toxic relationships. To get started, simply call or email our Livonia therapy practice. We look forward to hearing from you.