Dealing With Family Tension

Christmas is one of those times during the year that we look forward to. All the busy weeks of preparation, sending cards, buying presents and family getting home for a few days of rest and relaxation. However sometimes our happy ever after image of the perfect family scene does not work out as we had planned. Maybe it’s the heightened expectation; maybe it’s the sense of cabin fever, maybe its stress of it all.

Family is especially difficult when it comes to disagreements and raw nerves. The major cause for friction is that there is a lot of emotion involved with family, regardless of if you are close with them or not. Often you know your family member’s hot buttons, and they know yours. Parents and siblings sometimes can tend to give unsolicited advice, and everyone has known each other for a very long time, so tension could brew over the Christmas when in fact the family member did not mean to offend you at all. A lot of times too, proper etiquette does not come into play because basically you are family and these are the people who know you best, everyone is brutally honest. This fact sheet gives you a few practical tips on how to cope with family tensions at Christmas.

Be Respectful: Especially if you are visiting your family away from your home, you need to respect the rules of the home you are in. You may disagree with a family member about how they are running their life or their home, but instead of attacking them, try to offer your concern. How you say something as opposed to what you say is very important here. For example instead of ‘What are you doing that? It’s a total waste of time and so stupid’ say ‘I do that differently, I find it saves me time. Do you want me to show you how I do it?’

Pick Your Battles: You may have a family member whom likes to point out everything wrong with the celebration, and with those present. You can choose to not be affected by their negativity. In regard to parents, they may have a tough time seeing children as adults. Try to remain civil and calm. If you things are about to get too heated, get away from the situation and spend some time doing something you like.Less Talk, More Listening: You don’t have to have all the answers, and you don’t have to be right. So be still, and listen. Especially at holiday gatherings, it’s not about who the victor is in a battle. Try and exemplify grace. And if you can’t think of anything positive to say in response to someone else’s issue or concern, then simply say, “Take A Break: If you or one of your family is getting too excited, invite them for a quick walk, or take a quick drive to take leave from the stimuli, and relax.
For more information on how to deal with conflict effectively: check out the ‘How to Management Conflict’ fact sheet.