How to Deal With Difficult Relatives over the Holidays

posted on December 25, 2019 | by Kelley Matney

How to Deal With Difficult Relatives over the Holidays

The holiday season is a joyous and magical time; all the twinkle lights, music, delicious treats, presents and cheer. However, at the same time, it can also be full of stress, filled with overspending and overeating. For many people, the holidays also mean getting together with extended family which can be amazing – but also incredibly annoying.

Even if you love seeing your family, most of us have at least one family member that makes you roll your eyes, if not all-out fight over the dinner table; and of course, there are the relatives you love but have a tendency to interrogate you the second you walk in the door (how’s your love life? how’s your career? when can we expect children? etc.).

Here’s the thing, you don’t actually have any control over your relatives. You can only control how you react to them. Here are 5 tips for dealing with those difficult family members you can’t avoid.

Make a Plan

Strategize before the gathering starts –what topics you will avoid, how you will respond to sensitive issues, and some stories you can tell to fill any uncomfortable silences. Plan a few canned responses for when you are uncomfortably interrogated by your grandma. Finally, make an exit strategy for when/if things start to get truly difficult.

Bring a Buffer

Bringing a friend with you, especially one who understands the complexities of your family situation, can give you an added level of support that will make getting through everything much easier. If a friend cannot be there in person, make a plan to call or Facetime them just in case tensions run especially high. Having someone who is relatively impartial to act as a sounding board is nice – many of us tend to be a little irrational when it comes to family.

Find the Happy Medium When it Comes to Alcohol

A nice glass of wine or some spiked eggnog can definitely make the time pass smoothly and make the celebrations a little more festive. However, make sure to pace yourself, you don’t want to overdo it. Getting drunk can lower your inhibitions in harmful ways. It can also increase your anxiety and could make the situation turn combative.

Find the Fun

Uncle Charles getting you down. Go spend time with your cute nieces and nephews. Help with all the cooking in the kitchen. Watch football on TV. Find the things that will bring you a little joy in the day and put some space between you and the things (or people) that don’t.

Put Yourself First

If things get particularly difficult it’s okay to remove yourself from the situation for a bit. Go for a walk. Take a nap. Go in the bedroom and scream into a pillow. Anything that can calm the situation down. It’s also important to remember you don’t need to force yourself into uncomfortable situations in the name of holiday traditions. If you none of these tips work or if the circumstances are more severe than an annoying aunt, then you don’t have to participate. So this holiday, start your own traditions.

What strategies do you use to handle difficult relatives during the holidays?