7 Strategies for Dealing with Difficult Family During the Holidays

7 Ways to Cope with a Difficult Family During the Holiday Season

While we all yearn for the peaceful holiday bliss depicted on TV movies, reality isn't always so kind. For many people, the holiday season involves uncomfortable interactions with difficult family members. Here are some strategies to help you avoid or mitigate conflict with relatives.


  1. Avoid alcohol. When it comes to holiday season, loose lips can sink ships. When we drink alcohol, our inhibitions lower, leaving us more willing to express our frustrations and hidden resentment. Avoid drinking when in the presence of difficult family members, or you may accidentally cause or contribute to an unpleasant altercation.

  1. Be careful who you talk to. In most instances, it's healthy to express our feelings to people we trust. Unfortunately, if you talk behind a family member's back, you may inadvertently cause trouble. If the person is close to the family member, you might make him or her feel uncomfortable or disloyal. If the person has difficulty minding his or her own business, it might not take long for the family member to find out what you said. Try to wait until the holiday season has ended before venting your feelings, or schedule some time to speak to your therapist.

  1. Keep the conversation light and neutral. The wrong topic can turn things hostile in a hurry. Avoid sensitive topics related to politics, religion, lifestyle choices and current events. If someone else starts up a troublesome conversation, do your best to stay out of it, even if it means leaving the room.

  1. Prioritize self-care. When we are striving to make everyone happy during the holidays, we often neglect ourselves. If you don't get enough sleep or your diet is out of whack, you will be much more vulnerable to provocative circumstances. Make sure to get between seven to nine hours of sleep and eat a steady diet of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. You should also consider meditating or going for quiet walks to help reduce stress and promote a more patient outlook.

  1. Have realistic expectations. Sometimes, when we haven't seen a family member in some time, we harbor optimism that he or she may have changed. Unfortunately, difficult people tend to maintain negative habits, outlooks and personality traits. Don't set yourself for disappointment by expecting to heal old wounds. Try not to get frustrated if you see that a difficult relative hasn't changed for the better. If a family member says or does something to throw you off balance, try not to personalize it. Instead, avoid taking the bait and mentally rise above the situation.

  1. Address issues before the holidays. If you have a lingering dispute with a relative, consider addressing the issue before the holidays. This usually works best if the dispute is recent and the two of you used to be close. On the other hand, if the person is unlikely to see things from your side, don't invite stress by making a fruitless attempt at reconciliation.

  1. Allow some recovery time. Stressful events can leave us feeling anxious and frayed. Don't just jump back into your routine without taking some time to decompress after the holidays. Even if it's just a hot bath or a movie with your partner, some quiet time can go a long way toward rejuvenating you for daily life.

Our caring therapists are here to help you thrive during the holidays and beyond. Contact us today!