Do you deal with family tension during holidays? Stress, togetherness & personal differences can make tempers fly!


They can be a wonderful blessing, and they help make us who we are.

But oh, can’t they be a major pain in the neck during the holidays? In fact, they can be both a wonderful blessing and a pain in the neck at the same time.

Stress, togetherness & personal differences can make tempers fly. Here's how to deal with family tension during holidays

If you ever wonder how you’ll survive dealing with family tension at Christmas (or any other holiday), keep reading!

Most of us are under a lot of stress during the holiday season. With multiple celebrationsa long school holiday for Christmas, storm days if you’re in a cold region, and lots of social gatherings, we usually see a lot more of each other at this time than during the rest of the year.

Americans have the added stress of two big holidays (Thanksgiving and Christmas almost back-to-back.)

Stress and increased time together can bring any tension or argument to the boiling point.

We can try to be at peace with all, but sometimes it seems that that is much more difficult with family members.  As much as a tension-free holiday seems wonderful, it’s not going to happen for most of us without a bit of work.

Be Patient And Kind

Things are going to get hectic and stressful during the holidays, especially if you have a big dinner – or more than one – to plan and organize. So give yourself a new motto and repeat it as often as needed –

‘Tis the season to be patient and kind.

Of course it’d be best if everyone could walk around repeating that, but start with what you can control, right?

The simpler you keep things during the holidays, the easier it will be to stay patient and kind. The more we have on our plates, the more we tend to get stressed out and irritable.

Since we’re none of us perfect around here, stressed out and irritable leads to a short temper and before we know it, we’re saying something we really, really shouldn’t have said.

While I’m almost always in favour of the truth, someone once told me that “the truth that’s told with ill intent beats any lie you could invent”. When we’re snappy and stressed, we can lose our sense of good judgment. No matter how much we want to justify it by saying it was truthful, we know (and God knows) what our intentions were.

So no matter how much Aunt June complains about not being able to lose weight, you need not point out the six brownies on her plate. Save it for January. (If at all. Seriously, she knows why she’s not losing weight.) When your cousin moans that no one likes him, this is certainly not the time to suggest he bathe more and brush his teeth.

Be patient and kind.

January’s coming.

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Walk Away If You Need To

Sometimes the best thing you can do is walk away.

Your Republican father and Democratic father-in-law are “discussing” the latest American election? Both of them with a glass of whiskey in hand?

Your mother is loudly lamenting your divorce and wishing your ex-spouse would come instead of the very uncomfortable person sitting beside you?

While the turkey is being carved, Aunt Maddy wants everyone to know – in great graphic detail – about how her cat pooped on her pillow and her hair that morning?

Uncle George insists that he can’t eat unless the television is on?

Great-Grandma threatens, with great dramatic flair, to have a heart attack every time she looks at your sister’s new wife?

If a situation is stressing you out, or spiraling out of control, get yourself out of there. Go take a breather and come back when you can get back to being patient and kind.

The test of good manners is to be patient with bad ones. Solomon ibn Gabirol

Arrange with someone you know will stay patient and kind, or who will at least remain on your side of the craziness, to have a signal. Just as people often do for the phone, arrange a code phrase that means “No, I’m really not in a good situation right now and you need to get me out of here fast.”

A well-timed interruption can make a lot of difference.

Sometimes just going into a different room for a few minutes or taking a short walk outside will do the trick. At other times, you really need to leave before you get into an argument with a family member, and that’s ok. There are times when you’re better off getting out of there. They’re all adults, and you’re only truly responsible for your own actions and reactions.

If getting away for a breather is the only thing that lets everyone enjoy their Christmas, then, my friend, you do what you need to do.

Postpone Arguments When Possible

January is coming. Whether your season starts at Canadian Thanksgiving (first Monday in October) and goes until Epiphany OR if your Christmas lasts just a day, keep in mind that …

It only really happens once a year.

Bite your tongue if you need to and avoid arguments and fights. Take deep breaths, remind yourself to remain patient and kind even if you don’t think they deserve it – I mean, cat poop, really? – and walk away. It’s only for a short time. There’s no need to give in and agree with a political position you hate or tell Mom the divorce was because of your ex’s multiple affairs or bend over backwards to please family members you don’t get along with.

You just need to postpone the argument until after the holiday stress and craziness have passed, and just focus on loving everyone.

Some of your loved ones are more challenging to love than others, admittedly.

When family is gathered together, memories are made. It can be a special, wonderful time of the year.

We all can think back, though, to “that last Christmas before Grandma died”, or Aunt Maddy with her cat, or the Grandfathers with their opposing politics. Especially if your family only gathers together for Christmas and funerals, these are times to be treasured and protected as much as possible.

We don’t have to agree with each other to be family.

We don’t have to approve of each other.

We don’t even have to like each other, as shocking as that might sound.

But if we can be patient and kind, remove ourselves from stressful situations and keep in mind that it’s only for a short time once a year, we can get through any family tension during Christmas and keep loving our family.

Just Plain Living