Most of us will be spending time with family over the holidays. For some that conjures images of happy memories, but others envision tense family scenes filled with conflict and difficult relatives. We need some coping strategies.

We might no be able to change the situation, but we can certain control how we react to it. If it’s an ongoing conflict or misunderstanding, it might be a good idea to reach out to that person and talk it out. If someone brings up a topic that you do not agree with, such as politics, politely change the subject.

Sometimes there is a family member that criticizes, argues over difference of opinions or is just plain negative.  Do your best to change thoughts and try to think of something positive about that person. Remember, your thoughts affect your emotions and your emotions affect your behavior.

Here are a few coping strategies that will help you deal with difficult relatives, and enjoy the holiday season.

  • 1

    Resolve the Conflict

    Often the best alternative is to try and resolve the conflict. It’s not the easiest solution but it offers the biggest payoff. And considering this is family, and someone you will see again, it’s worth the effort.  The quickest path to a resolution begins with someone taking the initiative to start the conversation. Let it be you. 

  • 2

    Have a Plan

    Start strategizing before the doorbell rings about where you are going to sit, what conversations you will have, how you will respond to sensitive issues, and boring questions you can ask to fill the uncomfortable voids.  Visualizations can also help. For example, visualize yourself wearing protective armor and not allowing anything to get to you or bother you.

  • 3

    Take a Beat

    When a family members says something that upsets you, it is easy to lose your cool. Before something explosive or toxic comes out of your mouth, wait a few seconds, take a deep breath and consider your words. You might even get up and excuse yourself and collect your thoughts in the bathroom, or go into the kitchen and have silent scream.   Don't take the bait. If you rarely see the offender, it might be best to be a duck and let the rain roll off your back. Tensions and arguments will just ruin the day for everyone else.

  • 4

    Practice Acceptance

    This one can be tough, but surprisingly effective. Look at the person in question with kindness and compassion. Say to yourself, for example, “I see that you are angry and insecure,even if I don’t understand why.I accept that you are difficult, but I refuse to let it ruin my holiday.” Once you have accepted that the person will be a challenge, it becomes easier to cope. Remember that what we resist persists.

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