How To Survive The Holidays When Your Family Drives You Crazy

family dinner
Photo: iStock
As much as you look forward to the holidays and being with people that you love, sometimes those people can drive you crazy. Between the holiday gatherings and all the parties in between, seeing your family so many times over a short period can bring out their (and your) worst qualities. Plus, the pressure to buy perfect gifts for everyone and to discuss all your life changes can ruin a time meant to be joyful. However, if you take it one day at a time and plan ahead, you can not only survive the holidays with your family but enjoy them, too. Heed this advice to stay sane.

Leave the picture of what it is supposed to look like

Holiday movies paint the marvelous portrait of happy families and reconciliations. It’s easy to fall into the comparison trap and hard to imagine something out of these traditional scenes, making it even worse when your family members disappoint you. Rather than focusing on what is not there, try reframing your idyllic illustration in your head. Just because your family isn’t perfect doesn’t mean they do not care about you.

Don’t react to triggers

Whether they come from a place of good intention or are intended to get a rise out of you, things will be said that you take personally. My strategy is this: When someone says something that I find disrespectful, I have prepared comments like, “That’s nice of you to say, I appreciate it.” Rather than coming off as reactionary and on the offensive, this type of reaction will immediately catch the person off guard. So many people say things to get a rise and a calm response followed by silent composure sends a clear message you that will not stand idle nor fly off the handle. If they press on, try to change the subject. Anytime you can offset the topic with something casual, it shifts the focus back on the other person.

Know that it’s more often about them than you

If you feel as if the backhanded compliments are coming from every direction, remember that they likely reflect more on the people saying them. Family members who are ready to dish out insults over the holidays usually have other things going on they would like to detract from. Rather than stooping to their level, try to remember they probably have issues in their own life. You will have a much easier time being kind in response to someone that you feel empathy for. Taking the high road requires more patience, but I guarantee coming from a place of compassion will help you in the long run.

Lean on other people in your life

Look to your other support groups during the holidays and plan events with them. Friends can be even more comforting in these situations, so make an effort to see them, even if it’s a quick lunch or last-minute shopping trip. It will not only make you feel valued but also help you stay grounded when your family falls short of your expectations.

Remember that it’s only short-term

The bottom line is that the holiday parties will end. The last thing you want hanging over your head for the next few months is how you reacted in a bad situation. When your family falls short, try to be grateful for everything you have. Even if you cannot control the actions of others, hold yourself to the highest standard possible and show them the courtesy you wish there was more of in the world. Your mental health and happiness matter more than jamming in the last word.

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