Managing Family Dysfunction During the Holidays

Managing Family Dysfunction During the Holidays

If you have a family-- at all-- you have experienced family dysfunction during the holidays at some point. We laugh about it when we watch movies like National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, but it isn't so funny when it happens in real life. Uncles, cousins, great-aunts, and in-laws can be sources of real tension during the holiday season.

Family dysfunction is inevitable. We don't get to choose our family members. Rather, we're thrown together in close quarters with folks who may be very different from us. Their values vary. Their politics vary. Their skills, interests, and opinions vary. All those variations can cause a whole lot of friction. The holidays can be a true test of our tolerance.

So, when the dysfunction rears its ugly head, how can you manage it? 

1. Look forward. Try to remember that this, too, shall pass. The holidays aren't a never-ending event (even if it feels that way!), so look to the future. Keep the end in view. There is a light at the end of the dysfunction tunnel. It's a lot easier to be kind and let things roll off your back when you remind yourself that in a few hours, or in a few days, you'll be back to your normal life. Don't dwell on the current situation; it will end soon.

2. Agree to disagree. Don't allow yourself to get sucked in to the muck. Arguing over politics, religion, or some other topic serves no good purpose. Stay out of those emotionally charged conversations. You don't have to prove that you're right, and you don't have to try to change other people's minds. It's okay to disagree (kindly). Simply move on. Walk away if you have to. 

3. Give grace. Your family members aren't perfect, and neither are you. They will screw up during family gatherings, and they will say stupid things. So will you. Instead of beating them over the head each time, dish out grace instead. Forgive, and move on. Be kind and respectful. Hopefully your family members will be as gracious toward you, but give them grace without expectation. Dysfunction can be diffused with a healthy dose of grace.

The holidays don't have to be the catalyst for family feuds. We can experience peace and fun during the holidays with family members if we purposefully manage the inevitable dysfunction. Strategize ahead of time, using the guidelines outlined in this article, and you'll be well on your way!

Managing Family Dysfunction During the Holidays