Quote “ Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city." - George Burns ?

Holiday stress, is difficult enough, but if you have dysfunctional family members,
the daily ‘holiday reminders’ can really be upsetting. We’re bombarded with images and songs that tell us that the holidays, should be peaceful and happy – everyone gathered around the dinner table – filled with love and good cheer. If you come from a family like that you’re lucky, but most of us do not.

Holidays can be stressful in the best of times, because we’re out of our regular routines – but if your family members have an addiction, or other impulse control behaviors, spending the holidays with them can fill you with dread. So, to get you through the holidays with the least amount of emotional pain, these holiday stress tips can help.

First, you always have the choice to go to the family function, or not go at all. If you choose to attend, don’t agonize about it. Expect that things will be the same as they always were. History has a way of repeating itself. But , once you’ve decided that you’re going, keep a positive frame of mind. The dysfunctional people will be the same as last year, but difference this year is that you will not to be affected by them.

In a dysfunctional family, people will say or do something that will trigger others to react. Don’t buy into it. Don’t argue, don’t blame – bite your tongue if you have to, but don’t get into the drama.

If most of the arguments are around the dinner table, change the family dynamics. An informal dinner, like a buffet, can be easier and more comfortable for every one. People can interact with the ones they want. You may also feel more in control in your own house, so if you’ve always gone to ‘moms’, and your brother always gets drunk change the tradition. If she demands that you go to her house, tell her why you want to change things this year.

When someone is unhappy, moody, drunk, obsessed with the computer, or whatever, everyone else is affected. Don’t let negative people ruin the party, by focusing your attention on them. Make sure you have a good time with others, and ignore negative ones.

Occasionally arguments turn into fights, but don’t become a peacemaker. If it’s none of your business, don’t get involved. Let those who were arguing solve their own problems. It doesn’t mean that you don’t care about them. But if you get involved, you’re enabling them, by making matters worse.

If you find that the family members are rude and unmanageable, take children outside or out of the room and play with them. Always have an exit plan just in case…… If problems get out of hand, don’t stay. If you feel that you have to go home, or stay in a hotel, do it. Others may talk, but they will talk anyway. Don’t be a hostage because you fear the gossip.

Holiday survival tips.

1. Form alliances with those you like and stay clear of the dysfunctional ones.

2. Don’t expect others to be different. You’re the one who must change.

3. Don’t get involved in or arguments.

4. Don’t get involved in fights.

5. Keep busy – help in the kitchen, with the kids etc.

6. Don’t try to please everyone and make everything okay.

7. Use laughter and humor to take off the pressure.

8. Remove children from a toxic environment and stay with them.

9. If you’re upset, take time-out to decompress.

10. Make an exit plan and use it.

You may never enjoy these family gatherings, but find something good that came out of it. As my aunt Sarah used to say, “you can choose your friends, but not your family”. She was right. But regardless of them, you can be in control and not allow dysfunctional family members to push your buttons.

Make this holiday the best one ever!!!

Author's Bio: 

I am a Psychotherapist and Internationally Certified Addiction Counselor, specializing in all addictive behaviors: alcohol, drugs, food, compulsive sex, gambling, compulsive shoplifting, codependency and relationship/family issues.

I have a private practice in Montreal, and provide life coaching and recovery coaching on the phone or on the web:

Have a problem? Contact me on the site. Any personal question is free, and if you're interested in coaching, try a 30 minute session. If you decide to book further sessions, I am so confident that you'll get something out of it, that if you don't, your money will be refunded - no questions asked!! That's my personal guarantee.