35 Tips for Dealing With Difficult Family Members During the Holidays

Published November 14, 2023

35 Tips for Dealing With Difficult Family Members During the Holidays

The article, 35 Tips for Dealing With Difficult Family Members During the Holidays, written by Melissa Boudin, PsyD and reviewed by Kristen Fuller, MD, was published by Choosing Therapy on October 17, 2023. We have listed the 35 tips shared by the authors, and hope you will visit Choosing Therapy to read the expansion of each for yourself. You’ll notice that advance preparation is key!

1. Manage expectations to avoid disappointment

2. Plan ways of avoiding unwelcome patterns

3. Emphasize shared interests

4. Adjust your mindset with calming activities before visits

5. Set time limits on your visits with difficult people

6. Acknowledge to yourself your experience and feelings

7. Find common ground with those you find difficult

8. Use a “less-is-more” approach to interacting with your difficult people

9. Plan creative activities to do together

10. With interfering family members, be sure to

a. Recognize your expertise in your own life

b. Redirect conversations as needed

c. Set a positive atmosphere as much as possible

11. Ground yourself with a walk, yoga or mindful breathing

12. Remove yourself if and when doing so seems best

13. Create and honor boundaries, such as refusal to discuss private matters

14. Practice self-care in your preferred ways

15. For more control over events, consider hosting them yourself

16. Invite people who will serve as buffers between you and your difficult others

17. Avoid controversial topics

18. Be ready to change the subject

19. Have in mind numerous neutral conversational topics to introduce

20. Plan a way of signaling someone who can help you escape a problematic situation

21. Make plans in advance with your partner about how you will manage difficulties

22. Choose your battles; what can you let go? What requires your attention?

23. Avoid overindulgence in alcohol so that you can make your best decisions

24. Weigh the benefits of being around someone against the possible problems

25. Keep available (in your pocket, on your phone) something that will make you smile

26. Mentally step back and observe rather than become swept up in hard situations

27. Try to learn from and gain insight into the perspectives of your difficult others

28. Offer compassion to yourself

29. Be able to say no if necessary

30. Use I-statements (I think, I prefer) rather than blaming others

31. Use “I feel” statements rather than blaming others

32. Determine responses in advance as much as possible

33. Use affirmations such as “I am patient” or “my relative is well-meaning”

34. Ask for help from a professional counselor

35. Ride the wave, remembering that it will end


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