Are you worried about get-togethers with your toxic family during holidays? Are you dreading seeing them during the most beautiful time of the year, because the only thing you feel when you’re with them is unhappiness and annoyance? Here’s what you can do when avoiding toxic family during holidays is not possible.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year.
Ah, Christmas! It’s time you come home to spend the holidays with your family. You listen to Christmas carols playing everywhere while drinking eggnog. You smell chestnuts roasting on an open fire as you relax with your family in front of that gorgeous Christmas tree.
You laugh hysterically as your drunk uncle John dressed as Father Christmas hands out gifts to everyone. And to top it all off, you see snow falling outside setting the stage for a perfect white Christmas.
Despite the brutal weather outside, Christmas is a great time filled with warmth, joy, and happiness that we share with your family and create new memories together. It’s a time when you forget about all your problems & worries and you just relax & have fun.
But not for everyone! Christmas can feel like a chore when you find yourself dealing with toxic family during the holidays.
A Christmas Nightmare
For many folks out there, the holidays can be a nightmare that they dread. And the primary reason for that is toxic family members, and dealing with a toxic family during holidays is something most people want to avoid.
The moment you come home for Christmas, you feel drained of all your energy. You hear your siblings yelling everywhere as you try to dodge their abusive verbal bullets aimed at you. As you choke on the tasteless eggnog you smell the dinner getting burnt in the oven.
And finally when you sit down to get a moment of peace in front of the shabbily decorated Christmas tree, you realize it has the exact same decorations from last year.
You laugh hysterically at your misfortune as your drunk uncle John dressed as a homeless Father Christmas abuses and curses everyone. And to top it all off, you see snow falling outside making sure you can’t escape this white, red, and green nightmare.
If this is what Christmas feels like for you, then you need to know that you’re not alone. According to research, around 62 percent of people experience increased stress levels during the holidays. And it’s mostly due to their dealing with their toxic family during holidays.
Dealing with your toxic family during holidays can severely affect your self-esteem and make you go back to therapy even though you’ve worked all year to rebuild yourself and your self-esteem. Crazy family dynamics can not only ruin the holiday season but also mess with your mental and emotional health.
When The Christmas Tree Falls
Christmas for you doesn’t resemble the perfect Hallmark holiday by a long shot. Instead of loving siblings, cousins, and relatives, you have to cope with abuse, estrangement, addiction, and negativity. The more you try to tell yourself you can get through this, the more stressed you feel as you can’t see how you can do this.
Get-togethers with your toxic family during holidays can get you into sticky situations leaving you feeling suffocated.
As the criticisms and insults flow freely through the house making you feel like a total worthless loser, you start losing your temper and your old emotional wounds start to reopen.
With your older brother showing off how much better he is doing than you, your mother-in-law telling your husband how he could have chosen a better wife, and your cousin’s new boyfriend cracking the nastiest and the dullest jokes, you become almost homicidal and wonder if setting the Christmas tree on fire would be such a bad idea. You feel inclined to summon Krampus instead of Santa Claus this Christmas.
But you don’t have to.
You don’t need to lose your mind. Spending time with your toxic family during holidays doesn’t have to ruin the rest of your life. You just need the right strategy to survive the holidays with your sanity intact.
How To Survive Your Toxic Family During Holidays
Looking for ways for dealing with toxic family during the holidays? If you have a difficult family, Christmas can lead to feelings of anxiety and dread. Your home needs to be a place of comfort and Christmas should be a time of joy and togetherness.
So even though you may not want to, you can feel obligated to go home during the holidays and be with your family. If you have to deal with your toxic family during holidays, then you may experience a lot of holiday stress.
However, there’s still hope. You can still put the “merry” in Christmas and have a holiday you can enjoy.
Wondering how to deal with toxic family during holidays? Here are 11 strategies to help you deal with your toxic family during holidays.
1. Prepare in advance
One of the most difficult things about dealing with your toxic family during holidays is the feeling of having no control. However, if you plan ahead you can be in better control of yourself and be prepared to cope with the many problems and challenges that will eventually occur.
Reflect on your experiences from past holidays and take a mental note of which situations made you upset.
Plan your responses and reactions to potentially uncomfortable interactions and controversial remarks. Rehearse a few stock responses to better deflect questions that are painful for you.
Give boring answers to questions from family members and relatives you don’t like. You can also prepare a statement like “I don’t think this is the best time to discuss this”.
2. Set safe boundaries
Knowing that your family is difficult, decide how much Christmas time with your family and relatives you can tolerate beforehand.
Ask yourself what’s the deal-breaker? Is there anyone in your family that you just can’t stand? Is it easier to be in groups than facing particular family members individually?
How long can you tolerate staying? An hour? Few hours? One day? How much will be too much for you? Should you plan for a graceful exit? Figuring these things out before you visit your family will help you cope with the toxicity in a smarter and more prepared manner.
3. Don’t get your hopes up
Despite what you may believe, spending Christmas at your home will probably suck. When you’ve stayed away from your family for the entire year, it’s likely you may get hopeful about your trip back home. You may expect that things may finally start getting better with your parents reforming their critical ways.
However as you walk into your home, you realize that everything is the same, just as you left it. Your hopes get crushed affecting your mental and emotional health. Hence, setting your expectations low can help you avoid heartbreak when visiting your toxic family during holidays.
Understand that your family is not perfect and set expectations accordingly. Expect the same patterns of behaviour from your family and relatives and realize that things will probably get messy. This can help you survive Christmas with a toxic family.
4. Don’t take things personally
Your family has always been dysfunctional. It’s not about you. It was never your fault. This is how they are and they will probably never change. They don’t hate you, they simply lack awareness.
They may be insensitive and may not be thoughtful but they never intend to cause you harm. They are your family and despite what it may seem and they always want the best for you.
However, they have their own struggles and battles to fight. They have their own inner demons to fight. They are as stressed and anxious about the holidays as you are. So try not to take everything as a personal attack.
Instead of being frustrated or angry at your family, try to be a bit more compassionate and empathetic towards them when interacting with your toxic family during holidays.
After all, it’s the season to show love and be forgiving. Treat your family the way you want to be treated and this alone can make the whole experience a whole lot better.
5. Stay away from alcohol
Most of the worst memories of our lives start with alcohol. It just brings out the worst in us. Alcohol, including alcoholic eggnog, can easily provoke aggressive and emotional reactions.
It suppresses inhibitions and serves as an unhinged arbitrator in conversations. As you drop your guards, you become more open to exhibiting unhealthy behaviours.
So if you want to avoid a nightmarish Christmas, be mindful about how much you drink. When you are sober most of the time, you will be in a better position to handle things more tactfully and with a calmer mind when dealing with your toxic family during holidays.
If you want to deal with a toxic family at Christmas smartly, stay away from the booze.
6. Stay neutral
When visiting your toxic family during holidays, stick to neutral topics and conversations. You can also think of some funny experiences you had throughout the year and share them with your family.
When you have strained relationships with family members, spending time with them can be a challenge. So it’s best to avoid heavy topics like politics or religion.
Talk about things that you all enjoy like food, cars, Christmas movies, camping, vacations, and even the Christmas tree.
7. Try to have fun
No matter how toxic your family is, they’re still your family. And you can still enjoy your time at home. So have a positive mindset and banish all the negativity.
Plan an enjoyable activity, watch a great Christmas movie, play a game that everyone can enjoy, and inspire everyone to share their favorite Christmas story. Use your positive attitude to put some much-needed ‘fun’ into your dysfunctional family.
8. Act mature
When spending time with our family, we often tend to regress to childish behaviour. However, you need to keep in mind that you’re an adult now and you need to act like one.
Remind yourself of your achievements, your personal life, and your age. So when a negative emotion or thought surfaces, choose to act in a mature way instead of acting out like a teen.
Related: 7 Characteristics Of Mature People
9. Have an exit strategy
If things become really toxic around your home, they can pay to have an exit strategy. A simple emergency phone call from a friend or maybe a prior engagement can come in handy when things start going downhill. Plan an exit strategy ahead of your visit for some peace of mind. This strategy can be a life saver.
10. Understand what you can control
Regardless of what history you share with your family, you can always use the time you spend with your toxic family during holidays to start making things better. Your family may offend you on a regular basis or maybe they have caused deep emotional wounds. But this is not the time to focus on what hurts you.
Instead, use Christmas as the time to heal your own self and be as strong as you can be. Make sure you have enough mental resilience and emotional strength to go through this.
Tell yourself that no one can affect you, your thoughts, or your emotions without your permission. So show enough love, compassion, and kindness to yourself as you go through this difficult time.
When you realize the only thing you can control is yourself and the only one who can control you is you, then the toxicity in your family will not be so damaging to your emotional and mental health, and you’ll be able to deal with your toxic family during the holidays effectively.
11. Enjoy the holidays
When you set realistic expectations and let go of high hopes, you can finally start enjoying the little joyful moments that come with Christmas. Despite what Hollywood might show us, in real life, the holidays are rarely like uplifting movies.
However, that doesn’t mean you can’t experience a little Christmas cheer even if you have to deal with toxic family during holidays.
Look for moments that spread the joy of Christmas and create moments that your entire family can enjoy and cherish. Although there is no such thing as a perfect Christmas, miracles can happen anytime.
Well, now you know how to deal with toxic family at Christmas without making all hell break loose.
Spread The Christmas Cheer
Understand that it’s absolutely okay to not have a perfect family or a perfect Christmas. It’s okay to argue and it’s okay if your parents criticize you. Families tend to be like that.
And the fact remains that not everyone has the opportunity to spend Christmas with their family. You’re among the lucky ones despite what you may feel right now.
You should also realize that these family holidays will not be here forever. Neither will your parents or family members. And once you reach that point, you will cherish the Christmas memories you make now for the rest of your life.
So try to keep your negative feelings aside and enjoy the moment. This is a magical time for your whole family to get together and rebuild broken connections. To share a day together. To make some new memories.
Focus on shared connections instead of looking for happiness. Understand your family, their troubles, problems, fears, loves, dreams, hopes, and expectations from you. Give them the love you seek from them and expect nothing in return, except for some memories.
And maybe a little peace on Earth.
After all, it’s the most wonderful time of the year.
Wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy 2024.