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Navigating the Holidays with Difficult Family

Without fail, there will come a time when your family is all together and "disaster" strikes. The champagne is flowing and feelings that have been stewing for the last twelve months start rising to the surface. While the holidays are supposed to be a time for families to put aside their differences and enjoy one another's company, that doesn't always happen. 

How do you deal with difficult family?

It's easy to react immediately to the offender's bad behavior, but it takes some strength to hold back. Reacting will only elevate the situation and may encourage others to get involved. The last thing you want is your whole family wrapped up in the drama.

If alcohol is involved and seems to be a key factor in family problems, try to limit the amount available. It might be good to stick to serving wine and beer at family functions, and limit the amount of table wine available during dinner. The harder alcohol is to access, the less likely your family guests will overdo it.

If the drama is between other family members and doesn't directly involve you, it can be hard to decide when to step in or not. On one hand, you don't want to get involved and make the problems worse. But on the other, you don't want the issues to ruin your party. 

There are a few ways you can approach this, and each depends on your proximity to the situation and your judgement. If you think you can reason with both parties to set aside their differences and behave for the evening, do just that! Take each person aside, share your thoughts and concerns, and kindly ask that they reserve their argument for another occasion (not in your house). If you don't think they can be reasoned with, prepare yourself (and perhaps your spouse or another close family member) for intervention. If arguing or conflict ensues, think about some of the ways you plan to diffuse the situation. Remember that you have the right to ask guests not to behave in certain ways in your home, so don't be afraid to be stern.

The holidays are already exhausting, and adding an unnecessary layer of drama makes them even more tiring. Don't let negative moments put a damper on your holiday joy. And try not to absorb the negativity of others. If you maintain a positive frame of mind, your guests will, too, and everyone will leave with a positive memory of your time spent together during the holidays. 

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