This time of year, many of us are busy planning family get-together’s, creating menus and picking out gifts.  However, the holidays can also highlight stressful family dynamics, putting a damper on the happiest of times.  Here are a few ideas to help ease the stress of family gatherings.

Put the “fun” in dysfunctional.  Almost all relationships have struggles and challenges and….. that is OK!  Living with the belief that you should be the “perfect” family or have zero conflict, creates a lot of pressure, disappointment and anger.  Going into family gatherings with more realistic expectations, creates the space to have more fun, connection and enjoyment.

Don’t keep your feelings under wraps.  Sharing how you feel, as close to “in the moment” as possible, creates connection and understanding, while hiding your feelings leads to negative emotions such as anger and resentment. Use “I” statements, don’t accuse, and invite a response.

DO – “I felt kind of angry when you said Ryan thought I was immature, can you see how that might hurt my feelings?”

DON’T – “It is so rude that you said Ryan thinks I’m immature, how can you be so mean to me?”

Be open and curious.  Oftentimes, people go into family gatherings on edge or defensive and on alert for conflict.  Instead, go with a goal of learning one new thing about each person in attendance.  This openness creates an energy that allows for curiosity, the sharing of experiences and connection, a powerful recipe for happiness.

Take care of you.  The holidays are a busy time, and throwing in a lot of “togetherness” can be overwhelming.  Stay in touch with what you need or want, such as a nap, a nice walk or a refreshing drink, and make sure you are taken care of.  The more relaxed and comfortable you feel, the more you’ll be able to enjoy your family time.

Improve your relationships, relieve stress and enjoy more happiness.  I help individuals, couples and families to increase life satisfaction and decrease discomfort, contact me to find out how we can work together.

Author: Stephanie Macadaan

I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in California. I love working with couples and individuals to find strength, growth and empowerment through their struggles and challenges.