The holiday season is supposed to be full of food, festivities, friends and family. But all too often, holidays aren’t what we hoped they would be. Happy family holidays don’t just happen. Here are 9 tips for dealing with holiday conflicts:
1. Be tolerant.
Extra doses of patience, acceptance and humor during this time of togetherness is the key to enjoyable family holidays. Kindness and mercy first even with the most irregular of family members.
2. Adjust your expectations.
Avoid the urge to idealize the holidays. With modest, realistic expectations, you’re more likely to enjoy yourself and your family. It would be delightful, but all your holiday dreams probably won’t be realized this year.
3. Keep holiday rituals flexible.
Draw a distinction between the holidays as institutions and what they mean to you and your family. Put your focus and energy on what matters most. Dispense with those parts of your celebrations that don’t work, and preserve what creates memories and strengthens relationships.
4. Examine family traditions each year.
We make three common mistakes at holiday time. 1) We don’t take time to identify our values. 2) We don’t practice what we believe in. 3) We don’t choose between competing values. This last mistake is likely to be the main dilemma for many of us. When we don’t choose between competing values, we try to do too much. Then everything is diminished by our frantic activity.
5. Create new rituals that reflect family changes.
When our children began marrying and having their own families, Max and I chose to celebrate our Christmas on Dec. 26th. This allowed them to spend the 25th in their own homes or with the other in-laws and the 26th as Christmas with us. It was a ritual change that was a win win for everyone.
6. Make plans. Don’t leave holiday celebrations to chance.
Let loved ones know what your plans, intentions and expectations are ahead of time. This is especially important if your plan is a departure from what has happened in the past. If this year you are taking the family skiing instead of going to Mom’s . . . well, best you outline and announce that plan as early as possible.
7. Take care of yourself.
Traveling disturbs normal routines. Eat and exercise regularly, and try to get some time alone. Also, you don’t have to eat or drink every special thing that is put before you in the interest of “being nice.”
8. Don’t regress!
Returning to your childhood home often reactivates childhood feelings and fears from those early years. It’s important to maintain your boundaries — physical, emotional and intellectual. You may even want to consider staying in a hotel rather than your childhood room.
9. Contain family tensions so they don’t ruin your holiday.
Families need to enjoy special events together. Remember, family relationships are more important than petty arguments. Accept your differences, and keep your sense of good cheer. This is not the time to try to solve long standing family problems.
Ask yourself: “Do I want to be right or do I want a loving relationship?” “Is this such an important issue that it must be solved this holiday?”
Chances are, your family isn’t perfect. If you accept this and alter your expectations accordingly, you may find there’s still no place like home for the holidays.