Holiday Drama Fighters

In my blog-reading travels, I’ve noticed quite a few folks are feeling stressed out over anticipated family drama of the holidays, and I imagine many readers-not-bloggers may be feeling the same. So I’m taking the luxury of recalling a past post in which I shared some tips from the Salvation Army on dealing with family stresses during the holiday season.

From December 2008:
I’m not sure if I’ve ever mentioned it here, but now seems like a good time. When it comes to family, I hit the jackpot. I’ve never walked a day on earth without their love, and I cherish them in return. We have our occasional scratchy-patches, but they always blow over pretty quickly.

Years of experience have taught us what to expect of each other. I know that both my parents will give me lots (and lots) of well-intentioned advice I didn’t ask for, and that my grandmother and sister will both say something that makes me cringe. As the lone liberal in the family, I will have more than one moment of tongue-biting to avoid an argument.

What I try to remember at these times is that I’m not perfect and neither are they. And if I expect them to accept me as I am, then I need to give them room to be who they are. Even when I want to bounce a wooden spoon off someone’s head.

We may not be candidates for a Norman Rockwell poster, but we’re reasonably close. Love trumps everything else, and the good times far outpace any negativity.

Not everyone has this luxury, I know, and many people actually dread spending time with their families during the holidays. Instead of joyful togetherness, these people see the holidays as a time to resurrect long-simmering resentments, years-old feuds, petty squabbles and misdemeanors, misdirected bitterness—you get the picture. Throw in an abundance of alcohol and things can get messy in a hurry.

The Salvation Army has an excellent roster of suggestions for avoiding family conflicts during the holiday, among them:

Seek to understand more about how your family works. Once you understand more about it (and the part that you play in it) it will be easier for you to objective about it. Emotional reactivity is not helpful.

Remember there are some things that, in the bigger scheme of things, are not worth making an issue of. (Cammy note: Obviously, some families have seriously ugly events in their pasts, but your mother-in-law’s questioning your choice of spices in your casserole isn’t cause for a major altercation.)

Avoid digging up the past. (Cammy note: Instead of focusing on the past, why not spend the energy trying to make this holiday season even more memorable as the one in which everyone gets along?)

[Holiays] may not be the best time to confront or expose problems. There may be better times and better ways to do that.

Plan what is going to happen over the Christmas period and make sure you feel okay about what is happening.
If you feel you have been dragged along with something that you really don’t want to be a part of, you are more likely to be resentful.

Christmas is a time to look for the best in your family and friends. Look and speak to the very best in them.
(Cammy note: I really like this one as I’ve found that when you expect the best from people, you very often get it. If you expect the worst…well, you’ll probably find it, even if it’s not really there. See this post if you need a refresher.)

The bottom line is that WE are in control of our expectations, our actions, and our reactions. Unless we have too much wine, that is. And for those of us for whom that might be a concern, perhaps it’s better to wait until we’re home to imbibe. A nice glass of wine while we’re patting ourselves on the back would be a truly nice ending to the holiday.

12 thoughts on “Holiday Drama Fighters

  1. Great tips! Our family gatherings are fine as long as my father and I avoid political discussions! 😀 I have learned not to rise to the bait. That only took many years…

  2. As always, a thought-provoking and pithy post (say THAT 3 times fast!), Cammy. I’m saving that mantra for the wild and woolly Christmas dinner, since we don’t get the family together at Thanksgiving anymore. Love this post!

  3. Thanks for the reminder (for Christmas) to stay away from politics. Our family members share the same core values, and it always amazes me that the rest of them can be so damn conservative 😉

  4. Such a great post Cammy because yes, holiday gathering can bring out that fighting & arguing, unfortunately. Great advice to be in control of your own actions. And yes, certain subjects get me boiling too – like politics where I have very definite opinions so I do try to avoid that if at all possible but if it comes up & the other person says something, I feel I have the right to discuss but I try to not get crazy. 😉

    I think we all need to take deep breaths & yes, definitely pause & breathe before speaking if something hits us wrong!! :-)

  5. I’m going to try to be more upbeat about seeing the in-laws this year, but I would still rather throw myself in front of a bus. One piece of advice I’m going to try is to immediately turn the conversation around to where we are talking about THEM and not me. So – if they say “how is the job going?” – I am going to counter with “It’s going good. How are you enjoying your retirement?” I’m guessing – when the light is turned back on them – they will find another target to go after. We’ll see.

  6. Cammy, you are my heroine of the day. Thank you for posting this at a time when I really needed some perspective. I will carry these thoughts with me tomorrow. Have a good Thanksgiving and know that I am thankful for YOU!

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