Yep, today I am talking about family and the holidays. You love them, can’t wait to see them, but then find they are your number one source of stress over the holidays. You don’t have to feel guilty about about the pre festivity anxiety. No one enjoys talking politics or reliving embarrassing stories that will inevitably be told every year after a few glasses of Chardonnay. Navigating family conflict can be overwhelming.
Let me tell you a secret. EVERY FAMILY HAS CONFLICT. Every family has conflicting political thoughts, conflicting religious thoughts, conflicting lifestyles, and past hurts that remain unresolved. I remind you that you are not alone because we live in the world of perfectly curated instagrams which we inevitably tend to believe that you are the only one with family drama.
And that is a lie.
And as much as I would love to solve all your deeply embedded family issues in this blog post. I have no control over your family, and guess what … you don’t either.
Let me repeat myself because this is important.
The only person you can control is yourself.
With that in mind, here are some tips to help you fully enjoy your time with your loved ones and not be weighed down by family dynamics.
Tip #1: Define your boundaries.
It’s amazing how quickly you can revert back into your 13 year old self as soon as you are with your parents and older relatives. Sometimes this leads to old habits and not speaking your truth. Just because you want to avoid navigating family conflict does not mean you have to be the family punching bag, or hide who you are. Reflect on past experiences with family that perhaps made you feel “less than” or felt as though you should have stood up for for your self.
Vow to not let it happen again, but be an adult about it. Standing up for yourself does not mean conflict, it simply means standing up for yourself. If you respond out of anger, sure .. it may turn into a big scene. But anger happens when you get upset and let things simmer for days, or comment after comment after comment. Prepare yourself, reflect on it ahead of time and set a goal to speak up with maturity and calmness.
Tip #2: Gratitude Reminders
Funny that we are heading into a season of Thanksgiving but we tend to forget this gratitude thing on Thanksgiving. Really zoom out and think about how grateful you are to have the people you love with you. Remind yourself of others who are less fortunate in this season. Californians this year will be celebrating their holidays with empty seats at the table, if they are fortunate enough to even have a table left to gather around. I say all of this because when your mom makes a comment about what you are wearing (like she ALWAYS does), and it eats at your last nerve. Be thankful and humble, because someone, somewhere would give anything to have their mom be at their table, snarky comments and all. Perspective is everything.
Tip #3: Fight Fires with Compliments and Gratitude
I think we can all agree that Thanksgiving and Christmas is just not the time to navigate family conflict that has existed for years . If you find yourself in a conversation that is headed south, try to put out the fire with a positive comment or vocalizing your gratitude. You may find that positivity and gratitude is pretty contagious. Political conversation turning angry? “Man, aren’t we lucky to live in a country where we can share our opinions that are so different.” If the conversation turns to hateful gossip, “Sure she has her faults, but don’t we all? I just love how dedicated to her work she is.” I know, my examples are cheesy, but you get my point.
Tip #4: Walk Away from Navigating Family Conflict
Sometimes you can end a damaging or heated conversation with a compliment or vocalizing your gratitude, but there is a strong possibility you will be looked at like the crazy person, or be met with resistance. Just. Walk. Away.
This goes back to what I said about being in control of others. You can’t control anyone but yourself. You are actively taking steps to have a pleasant and relaxing holiday where you can enjoy time with your family and that is all you can do. If you are in a situation that does not serve you, you still have control of one thing… yourself. This also aids in the whole “setting your boundaries” thing. You know your limits, and you don’t have to be ashamed to stick to them. Just find the kids running around somewhere, they tend to be the perfect escape from conversations you don’t really want to be a part of.
Being a part of a family is about one thing, acceptance. That means acceptance for the good and the not so good. That means choosing to love your cousin regardless of how much you disagree with them. The beauty of this concept is that it works both ways, your family loves you regardless of the underlying conflicts. It is funny how we work so hard to be accepting and tolerant of everyone we encounter but then tend to judge our family harshly. Zoom out this holiday season with navigating family conflict, remind yourself of what you are grateful for, and enjoy every moment with your loved ones.
If you want to learn more about navigating family conflict with family and friends, schedule a session with Ashley today.