What is it about the 40 days from Thanksgiving to January 2nd that creates so much family tension? It’s not like we are stuck in an ark with a bunch of animals. And yet somehow there is always something that pushes us over the edge and makes us think we might prefer the company of animals in an ark to our family.
Aunt Betty just has to know why you aren’t married yet.
Uncle Jack can’t quit telling what a mistake you are making with your career. You really should follow in his footsteps. And you have to listen, yet again, to a diatribe about how great the plumbing industry is.
If your mother-in-law makes one more comment about wanting grandchildren, you just might run screaming like your hair is on fire.
Ah, the holidays. How much we love them.
Fortunately, with a little bit of prep work (less than you have to do to create that huge holiday meal) you can preserve your sanity and your relationship with the family:
- Know what you can and can’t control – There is nothing you can do about someone trying to pry into your personal life or inferring that your green bean casserole isn’t up to par. You can control how you respond and whether or not you let them goad you into feeling angry or frustrated with your cooking skills.
- Understand individual communication fingerprints – Remember that everyone has a unique way they use words and what those words mean together. Could it be that Uncle Jack actually doesn’t care about your career choice; he is just using it as a segue to talk about himself? Maybe your mother-in-law is feeling lonely or the comment about your cooking is just an awkward attempt at helpful conversation.
- Assume the positive – When it comes to family it is so easy to jump to the conclusion that they are all out to get you. In reality, they likely just have their own emotional stuff to deal with and aren’t thinking about how they are affecting you. Thoughtlessness is better than maliciousness.
- Ask for what you need – So often we expect our family to just know what we need or want and then we are disappointed and frustrated when our expectations aren’t met. If you want your mom to just be proud of the dinner you put together try saying something like, “Mom, I worked really hard to make this happen. I am sure there are things that aren’t exactly like you would do them. For today, can we focus on how happy I am to have us all together at my house?
- Catch the trigger – Know the signs that you are being pushed to your limit. Does your heart rate go up? Maybe you start to feel flushed or little things annoy you to the point that you want to strangle someone. When you start to feel your warning signs, take a break. You are responsible for you and only you. Take a walk around the block or your cup of eggnog into the other room and remind yourself that their opinion is only an opinion, not a permanent assessment of your being.
Fortunately the holidays only come around once a year. Be thankful that this year your family is here to celebrate it with you. Enjoy them. Create great memories you can look back on and laugh about. After all is said and done, the worst family holiday drama always makes the best stories to tell your kids. Assuming you ever decide to take care of that making your mother-in-law a grandmother issue.
Wishing you a sane, happy and drama free holiday season!