Monday, November 25, 2013

Happy Holidays.... Really, {With MY Family?}

Like it or not, the holidays are upon us and often our expectations for the warmth and joy of this season far exceed the reality.

According to counselors and law enforcement, the statistics don't lie. The holidays are anything but happy for many people.

Over the next several weeks, I'll be sharing some different ways the holidays can be less than happy for many of us and how to address these issues. How can we best prepare for a time of peace and gratitude in our lives in the coming weeks? 

Today, I will be talking about family. How many of us have difficult family members, who seem to cause friction, no matter how hard you try to get along with them? I've heard the saying  and agree,  "We don't get to choose our family members." And honestly, would we choose to be friends if they weren't family? For many of us, the answer is "no". 

Here is a trailer of an movie I love to watch, called "Home For the Holidays." Have you seen it? Some of it is humorous, but there's also some dark reality to it.  If you have a family that's a bit unconventional (the opposite of the Norman Rockwell image. Let's face it, none of us has that kind of family anyway, right?), you will find this movie easy to relate to. Mine isn't quite this bad (well maybe at times), at least not up front. (We have a LOT of passive aggressive people in my family.) 

I can relate to the feeling that the main character, Holly Hunter, has about getting together with family. It's difficult to know just what to expect....but I'm never surprised by how some family members never cease to try to cause friction or start an argument.  

Is it getting worse? (Sometimes it really feels like it is.)
What can we do about it? 

How do we slow ourselves to focus on God’s greatest gift to us? Especially when we believe this time of year should be about family, gratitude, peace and generosity. A time of year that represents receiving the greatest gift ever given.

I've put together 9 different things that hopefully will be helpful in letting us deal with family conflict during the holidays....

1) To begin with, before heading out the door (or family members arrive) take time to pray for God to give you wisdom, kind words, and the right attitude. Pray that the presence of God will be experienced in the love and support shared between family members. Pray also that when issues arise that you will find forgiveness in your heart and find joy in the time spent together, no matter what happens throughout the day.

2) De-emphasize the materialistic aspect of the season.  Research has demonstrated that holiday gatherings and family celebrations are more satisfying and result in higher levels of happiness when family members de-emphasize the materialistic aspect of the celebration while emphasizing the positive aspects of family and spirituality

3) Let go of the expectations you may have. Avoid being defensive and don't let your ego keep you from being close with someone you love. Set differences aside for the holidays. But, don't be surprised if family members still try to hash up old hurts. If this happens. . . .(read #4)

4) Try out new positive patterns of interaction.  Families do not like change and as a consequence, tend to engage in ritualized and repeated patterns of interaction.  In other words, when families that live apart get together for the holidays, old patterns and tensions are likely to re-emerge, triggering old wounds and memories of unresolved conflicts.   Instead of automatically repeating the way in which we engage in conflict with our family (which is what they are expecting), communication scholars suggest we try out new positive behaviors that may have the potential to de-escalate a conflict. 

5) Try to cut your family some slack. Pretty much everyone’s been in a position that made them feel — at least momentarily, if not longer — stupid, offended or insulted during holiday get-togethers.   Understand they probably aren’t intentionally aiming to upset you, and even if they aren’t being very considerate of your feelings or trying to see things from your point of view, realize you’ll be better off taking the high road around the holidays.

6) Avoid topics you know might get people riled up (such as politics, specific causes, or religious practices) and try not to ask questions that might be negatively construed.  Just ask lots of open-ended questions and let relatives share what they’re comfortable with. Compliment, don’t criticize, and everyone will have a much easier time getting along.

7) Acknowledge your own needs and limitations. 
  • If you get stressed hosting a family gathering, eat out or ask another family member to host, and offer to bring food or even order in.
  • A full house during the holiday season is common.  This means that people who typically do not live together are now under one roof.  This can be particularly stressful. Taking a walk or drive to the store to get a break is acceptable.
  • Consider making the length of the visit shorter. The longer we are with disagreeable people in one sitting cause stress to build. 
  • Take responsibility for your part in the dynamics that cause stress in your family relationships.
  • On the other hand, don't feel guilt for things that are not your fault or if you have tried to do everything you know to do to keep peace in your family. Just accept it, let go, and let God have control! 
8) And remember it's THANKSGIVING (and Christmas is coming!). Be thankful that you get to cook, or that you don't have to cook. Be thankful that you get to travel, or that you don't have to travel. Be thankful for your family or your friends. Find something. Studies show that gratitude is a major happiness booster. 

9) Finally, remember that while your family has given you your greatest joy, it can also be the source of your deepest pain.  This profound statement reminds us of the vulnerabilities as well as the triumphs that we experience in our families.  Knowing your limitations and setting healthy boundaries can help ensure a successful, happy holiday season for you and for your family. 

Source; Source; Source
I do want to emphasize that, in spite of the stress of holiday gatherings, I do love each and every one of my family!  Interestingly, our Thanksgiving meal may be a small one this year. My sister is working and my brother and his family have other commitments. My son is coming home from college and my mom and stepfather will be present. So, it may be just a handful of us, which could make things a lot less stressful.

 Have a blessed thanksgiving thanksgiving happy thanksgiving happy turkey day

Praying that you have a blessed and stress-free Thanksgiving!! 

Continuing to give thanks, listing the many gifts from the Lord all week long...  Linking over at  "Multitude on Mondays". 
1,541 - God's Word, given to encourage me!
  "...those who seek the LORD lack no good thing." Psalm 34:10
1,542 - Having lunch with my mom, last minute.
1,543 - Watching old movies/t.v. shows. Love the innocence of the old black and whites.
1,544 -I know I say it often, but having an amazing, loving, understanding husband.
1,545 - Having an adorable great-niece.(8 months old) Seeing pics of her on my niece's Facebook page.
1,546 - Having our carpets professionally cleaned!! Oh, the house smells and looks SO good!
1,547 - Having left-over Chinese take-out for my lunch....tastes SO good!!
1,548 - When my dogs get excited about getting under the covers of our bed, after my hubby leaves for work in the morning.(They bark and run all over the house! It's so funny.)
1,549 - My son, coming home for Thanksgiving!
1,550 - Time together with family.


  1. We always need to remember to keep the important things foremost in our minds, don't we. And THE most important thing is that we live every day to please Him (2 Cor. 5.9), even with a house full of cousins and in-laws!

    1. I couldn't agree with you more! Unfortunately, often this time of year the important things are quickly forgotten for many families. I am saddened to say that even in my own family, there are members that refuse to come to the family gatherings because of unforgiveness and hard feelings. I believe God can heal hearts, but so many years already have been lost because of they choose to stay away.

  2. Thank you for these wonderful suggestions! I am blessed to have a family that gets along well! I know so many that have unforgiveness in their hearts though. I learned long ago that forgiveness is for you. I'm grateful that my Lord has forgiven me! He's there for all of us, if we would just cal out to Him. Many blessings at Thanksgiving to you and your family! Thank you for stopping by my blog, so I could find yours!

    1. You are truly blessed, Betsy! Forgiveness from God shows us all how deeply blessed we all are. We are only able to show that same love to others because of His example! It is great to find your blog and get to know you a little, as well. Looking forward to making future visits there.

  3. Great list to keep handy during the holidays. I'm blessed to have a wonderful extended family with whom we share the holidays.
    Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

    1. That is a wonderful blessing! Also, praying you have a wonderful holiday!! Thanks for stopping by, Janis!

  4. Yes, these holidays can be stressful and I agree that there are many who will not be happy this season. Perhaps they prefer to be unhappy, I know some people who seem to be that way. Regardless - - may there be peace in your household and joy as you celebrate a time to give thanks. Thank you for sharing with us here at "Tell Me a Story."

    1. Thank you, Hazel! I agree that usually those who are the brunt of the discord like being just that! May you and yours also find joy and peace this season!!

  5. Great post! As much as I love my family and want to spend time with them, the stress that goes hand in hand with the time spent with family can be overwhelming. I especially love #4 because it is so easy to return to old patterns in our family interactions because we fall back on what we know. Creating new patterns on interactions will allow old hurts to dissipate and relationships to strengthen.
    Thank you for stopping by my blog and for your encouraging words over there! Thanksgiving blessings to you and your family!

  6. Great tips, Ann! We can all get so high-strung during the holidays. I used to get so nervous hoping that everything would go well...the food, the decorations, the timing, etc. that I would not truly enjoy what I was celebrating. But finally, when I learned to just relax and enjoy, things turned out well! Remembering that things don't have to be perfect really helps me.
    Blessings to you during this holiday season! Joan


I would love to hear from you! Feel free to leave me a comment.