How to Handle Family Conflict During the Holidays
It seems the ever mounting pressure around the month of December is very real. Be here, buy that, cook this, wear that. I entered the month with a super intentional approach for the holidays, but even after a lot of emotional prep-work I still feel guilty for not being everyone to everybody.
I could feel the weight on my chest increasing around the last week of November. Guests coming, 6 kids to shop for, husband’s finals ahead and a lot to do. Isn’t this month supposed to be slow and relaxing? Doesn’t my family understand I am running at max capacity and now is just NOT the time for more?
I pressed on some of those feelings a little bit harder. I hadn’t even reached a family conflict yet, but I literally felt like my heart could create one of its own. I wanted a little emotional road map just in case “over the hills and through the woods to Grandmother’s house” gets a little rough. Here is what I came up with:
1. First stop — Assess your gauges
Kind of like your car, you need to check your levels. How is your sleep? How are your emotions? How is your thought life? If everything feels out of whack, take some time to figure out what can be adjusted before you deal with a family conflict. Sometimes you may just need a good nap before you host a dinner. Or maybe you are still dealing with a deeper hurt from a family member and you need to seek reconciliation before you sit across the table from them? Take some time to assess these different areas of your life. The holidays have a tendency to bring hurt and exhaustion to the surface of people’s lives. We have to remember everyone is fighting their own battle. If we can help others fight their battles and not cause more conflict, that is already a tiny win.
2. Pit stop — Watch your words
We all have a limit. Are you at yours? Whether it be working too many long hours, health issues, lack of sleep, we can usually sense when we are close to our limit. Before you enter that time with your family and you feel you might explode — check your sanity. You may legitimately not be in a good state of mind to be “doing it all” around the holidays. If that’s the case, my Mom always taught me “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Take a deep breath and hold your tongue. You won’t regret holding back a few words, but you will regret calling your family member a snarky name or completely disrespecting your husband in front of his entire family.
3. Don’t arrive on E — Keep a quarter tank of gas at all times
If you’re approaching Grandmother’s house and the road to get there was bumpy enough, don’t arrive with an empty take of gas. I am speaking of gas as your energy, your attitude to serve, your thankfulness for your family or your overall excitement for the event. Try not to bring your own drama, your own stress or your own discontentment to the party. If it is at all possible, arrive at Grandma’s with a little bit of gas. Maybe even an extra tank of support in case you need an escape route and a few clear exit strategies.
When the dinner talk goes south, will you have enough patience to gracefully excuse yourself? Will you have enough stamina to pursue a cousin or distant relative that doesn’t feel included? Will you have it in you to stay late and help clean up when your Mom could use an extra bit of encouragement? Maybe someone you can text who will provide you with practical encouragement when things get heated. Everyone fills their emotional cup differently. Think about your emotional cup and don’t attempt to run on E in the midst of holiday conflict!
You may or may not face holiday conflict; however, the more I talk to people I find it is not far off. The more we own our responsibility in how we handle the holidays, the better we can face anything that comes our way. Here is to a smooth and enjoyable ride to Grandmother’s house we go!