For many people, the holidays are a time to be together with family. While family time can be a source of joy, it can also be a source of hurt and conflict—even for the most well-adjusted families! If you found yourself struggling with family conflict during the holidays, know that you are not alone and your experience is common. If you are hoping to work on managing conflict in the new year, check out these five tips for navigating challenging family dynamics.
1. Use “I statements”: (I feel, I need, etc.) Example: I feel frustrated when I am doing all of the cooking by myself, I need you to please peel the potatoes. By speaking from your own perspective, your words will be less likely to sound accusatory, and the person you’re addressing may be more likely to listen.
2. Expect the expected. If your grandmother tends to be highly critical of you…she’s probably going to be highly critical of you. If your uncle tends to drink too much and start arguments with your cousin, chances are: he’ll do it again this year. While these dynamics are frustrating, expecting that they will happen, preparing yourself appropriately, and removing the pressure to fix them this year may help you stay sane during family time.
3. Create a game plan. Decide ahead of time if there are off-limits conversation topics, and express these to your family. Once you’ve established your boundaries, stick to them, and be prepared to speak up for yourself or walk away if they’re violated. Finally, decide in advance how long you’ll stay, but give yourself permission to leave early if you are at your limit. Plan a real (or imagined) event to give yourself an excuse to say goodbye.
4. Stay above the fray. Focus on caring for yourself above all else. And yes, we know this one is hard! Your family may try to pull you into the same old drama, which leads you feeling hurt, frustrated and disappointed. Focus on using this time to take deep breaths, practice self-care, and prioritize your own self growth. Even if you do get pulled into old dynamics and feelings- remember that you always have the opportunity to get out again.
5. Lastly, adjust your mindset. No family is perfect, and the pressures of maintaining the peace can be tough on everyone. While you are practicing self-care, also try to exercise some compassion for your family members—focus on what connects you rather than what divides you, and try not to take things personally. Recognize that you have control over your words and actions, and you can respond to triggers with intentionality rather than reactionary emotion.
From all of us here at LifePath, we wish you a great start to the new year!