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 are stuck with your toxic family this Christmas, 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.
Here are 11 strategies to help you deal with toxic family members during the holiday season.
1. Prepare in advance
“In fair weather prepare for foul.” – Thomas Fuller
One of the most difficult things about spending Christmas with your toxic family 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 of 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 to stay? 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
“When you stop expecting people to be perfect, you can like them for who they are.” – Donald Miller
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 and realize that everything is the same, just as you left it. Your hopes will be crushed affecting your mental and emotional health. Hence, setting your expectations low can help you avoid heartbreak when spending the holidays with your toxic family.
Understand that your family is not perfect and set expectations accordingly. Expect the same patterns of behavior from your family and relatives and realize that things will probably get messy.
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 the 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.