TOP 5 TIPS FOR SURVIVING THE HOLIDAYS
By Kristin Kerr
The holidays can be times of warmth, laughter, good food, and shared memories around the dining room table. And then, there’s the age-old argument between Uncle Mike and Dad about who should have received Grandpa’s collection of baseball cards. Or, there’s the time the oven never got turned on and the turkey was raw. Sound familiar? Every family has it’s share of mishaps and discussions that turn bad. So, how can you survive your Thanksgiving and holiday season without getting pulled into any negativity? The following are my top 5 tips for surviving this holiday season.
Step #1: Come Prepared
We all know which family members have the potential for causing a stir. We also know some of the hot buttons of different family members. Prepare ahead of time and have a plan for how to handle these issues. Some potential problems can be helped by logistics. If dinner is going to be at your house, you have the option of placing name cards at seats to keep two people who have the potential to argue at opposite ends of the table. This does not guarantee an argument won’t occur, but it definitely helps. You also have the power to state the rules for your dinner table. One rule for my dinner table is that we do not discuss politics. I found the topic of politics always causes arguments within our family. I usually have to remind someone of the rule during dinner, but my wish is respected and politics are avoided. You may also wish to begin dinner by stating that you love spending this time with family and don’t want the dinner ruined by arguments. Therefore, if a discussion is headed that way, you reserve the right to ask that it be tabled for a later date. If stated ahead of time, everyone knows the rules and won’t feel as defensive when asked to stop.
Now, what if dinner is not at your house? You have a couple options. First, you can offer these suggestions to the person hosting dinner. But, if they don’t see the value in it, you can’t force it upon them. Your other option is to be the calm, stable force at the table. If an argument looks like it’s about to begin, try to divert the discussion into a less sensitive topic. If that doesn’t work, bring light to the situation. Suggest that the topic be discussed at a later date so everyone has the ability to enjoy dinner. If there is one family member who holds the most power within the family, you can try getting them on board ahead of time. If all else fails, take a few deep breaths and, perhaps, find the humor in the family debate.
Step #2: Let Go of Expectations
Many of us go into the holidays with expectations of how they should unfold. This automatically sets you up for disappointment. Since when has anything gone exactly the way you thought it should? So, let go of expectations. I’m not saying you can’t look forward to Mom’s pumpkin pie, but don’t base your happiness on it. If there is something specific you like to do or partake of during the holidays, then be your own designer in making it happen. Don’t rely on others to do it for you, and then be upset with them when it doesn’t occur.
Step #3: Realize What’s in the Past and Leave it There
90% of what people argue about are things from the past. Don’t bring the past into the present. If there is something you need to forgive a family member for, then you have three options. One is to forgive the person and move ahead with your life and relationship. This means there is no longer a need to discuss it. Your second option is to reach out to the person and ask to discuss it so you may both come to a point where you can move on. However, the holiday season is not the time to accomplish this. The holidays are filled with stress for everyone, and therefore, not the best time to resolve old conflicts. Either plan ahead and solve the issue prior to the holidays, or plan a time in the new year to discuss it and agree you both avoid the topic over the holidays and enjoy each other’s company. Sometimes just knowing you are both willing to resolve the issue can help alleviate lots of tension. I understand this takes two mature individuals to accomplish. You can only control your side of it. Your last option is to live in the past and continue to hold onto negative feelings. I guess you can tell that’s not my favorite option.
Step #4: Know What You’re Grateful For
A great way to stop negative feelings is to replace them with gratitude. Take a moment before the holiday to think of one reason you are grateful for each member of your family. Then, when you feel yourself getting annoyed with the individual, recognize it, and replace your thoughts with the gratitude. Can’t think of a single reason you are grateful for the individual? Hey, it can happen! Then, think of something within yourself that you can be grateful for because it helps you deal with that person. For example, do you have someone that complains about everything? Then, be grateful that you are able to see the positive where they can not. It is impossible to feel negative and grateful at the same time. If you find it difficult to remember to be grateful, it may help you to have a reminder. Put a button, stone, or some other small item in your pocket. Every time you reach in your pocket and feel the item, think of one thing you are grateful for in that moment. Practice pays off!
Step #5: Take Responsibility and Consider Other Perspectives
Ultimately, the one truth is that you are in control of your happiness. Take responsibility for your feelings and realize that you always have a choice for how you think about a situation. Are you upset with something someone said? Consider that there might be another perspective than the one you are currently thinking about. Then, think about one more perspective. We often get offended simply because we misunderstood the other person’s meaning or intention. Give other’s the benefit of the doubt and be more curious as to their meaning. Ask more questions before you go on the defensive attack. This one step can help you avoid many unhappy disagreements.
Brian and I hope you find these tips helpful in having one of your best holiday seasons yet. But, if you still find yourself struggling to have the best relationships with those you love, don’t be hard on yourself. We are not typically taught how to navigate relationships for success. You might consider speaking with a Relationship Coach to get some guidance and support.