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Simple Ways to Rise Above Family Drama This Holiday Season

Posted on Thursday, December 28, 2023
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by AMAC, D.J. Wilson
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Family Drama near Christmas tree

The holiday season is a blessed one, yet family gatherings can produce some drama. While togetherness is fun, the holidays can also be a time of year when you’re forced to put up with other people’s quirks or negative behaviors. Perhaps Uncle Joe is prone to grumpiness and says miserable things. Or maybe Cousin Shandra is extremely opinionated and likes to tell others they are wrong. Here are eight great ways to rise above family drama over the holiday season:

  • Have a big heart. Regardless of the commotion around you, remember the true meaning of the holidays. While you can’t control what other people say and do, you can control your behavior and reactions to them. Think peace and love this time of year, and when faced with a dilemma, choose the higher road. For example, if your mother-in-law insults your cooking by saying your turkey is too dry, turn it around by welcoming her advice and by keeping happy thoughts in your head. Let the holiday spirit take hold by being kind to everyone and setting a great example.
  • Accept other people’s quirks. We’ve all seen silly Christmas movies with dysfunctional families, such as National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. While that is a comedy, it is not always so funny to put up with other people’s eccentricities. Take the case of the pushy aunt who repeatedly asks the young newlyweds of the family when they plan to have children. While it’s obviously rude, the couple can choose to ignore it and not let it spoil their day.
  • Avoid confrontation. Should your opinionated cousin bring up sensitive topics, such as politics or religion, and become argumentative, do what you can to avoid a quarrel. You may choose to not engage or politely let her know that it’s a sensitive topic that you prefer not to discuss. Then, switch the subject to cooking or sports or a happier topic with which you share common ground. Alternatively, get up to stretch your legs and mingle with other guests instead. Sometimes politely removing yourself from a situation is easiest.
  • Bite your tongue. This is easier said than done, but it’s an effective way to avoid getting drawn into an argument. This includes staying out of other people’s disagreements. Should your brothers be at odds over who is their parent’s favorite son, for example, say nothing and let them work it out themselves. Otherwise, both may turn on you and you’ll risk being the target of their argument.
  • Limit your time together. If your sister’s kids are rude and unruly, and the lack of discipline gets on your nerves, limit your time together. It doesn’t mean that you don’t love them, it just means that you are setting healthy boundaries for yourself. Rather than spend 24 hours together, visit for a couple of hours and call it a day.
  • Avoid excess alcohol. Intoxication can cause behavior problems. While some people may withdraw, others may be unstable, use poor judgement, or become loud and difficult to control. If you are concerned with your own behavior, it’s best to avoid drinking altogether. Rather, enjoy some non-alcoholic beverages. If someone else is drinking, and you are concerned about them, do not allow them to drive. Provide alternative transportation if possible or let them sleep it off. Additionally, if you recognize that they have a problem with alcohol, do not scold them. Rather, talk to a professional who can advise you on how to best approach the subject.
  • Be a good sport. The holiday season is not a time for competition. Whether you’re playing a game or handing out presents, be cheerful and do not be a sore loser. Congratulate others on winning the game and be happy for this special season of giving and receiving. Should you get a gift you don’t like, for example, behave gratefully. Chances are the gift giver put a lot of thought into your gift and it is not worth hurting their feelings.
  • Don’t bring up mistakes from the past. A holiday gathering is not the appropriate time to discuss why you felt abandoned in the early years of your childhood. Opening deep wounds can bring upon grief. Rather, leave the past in the past and work on making new happy memories with your family and friends over the holidays. Should others engage in bringing up your past mistakes, such as how you skipped your great uncle’s funeral, be clear that you wish for the day to be happy and positive in keeping with the holiday spirit.

Let the holiday spirit move you!

Family relationships can be complex. Therefore, we can all likely benefit from these simple ways to rise above family drama over the holidays. It’s often best to let small things go. Rather, do your best to see the best in everyone, rather than concentrate on flaws and handle potential conflicts calmly by controlling how you respond. Despite differences in people, it’s up to each one of us to practice patience, acceptance, kindness, and to embrace the peace of the holiday season.

Seeing grandchildren for the holidays? Enjoy this article on bonding with grandchildren.

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