One of my favourite scenes from Harry Potter is when Harry and Co go to St Mungo’s on Christmas day. Where the welcome witch was trying to sort out all patients who had a magical injury due to a family Christmas day dispute! It seems in the magical world as well as our own not everyone has a christmas full of good will and cheer. Unfortunately in many families Christmas Day includes the annual scene and it can seem near on impossible to come out unscathed. Now of course this ranges from the mild annual tiff to the full blown toxic family experience. Its enough to make you want to ban all festivities and hide under the duvet until it’s over. Unfortunately not many people have the luxury of doing that. The family Christmas can seem impossible to get out of, or survive.
However it is possible to survive the family Christmas.
With a little effort and change of mind you can come through the challenge of the family Christmas and with a change of mindset you might even find you enjoy the experience more than you thought you could.
Here are my top tips on how to survive the family Christmas
Leave your expectations at the door
Expectations limit our experience. Even though you might hope that after many years this holiday might be the one where your family finally get you, to be honest, it’s probably not going to happen. You might not see these people often. Why should it be they suddenly have had an enlightening change of mind. Don’t set yourself up for a fail with false exceptions. At the same time if you expect things to be awful and challenging they probably will be. Expecting a fight or a conflict before you get through the door is going to put you on edge before you get started. So stop making it worse for yourself already. Be open minded. Take it as it comes.
Pre Christmas Planning
You have probably been through these excruciating family holidays before and come away licking your wounds. Not this year. This year you are going to be prepared. Think of this like having a battle plan. Identifying the triggers, the people and looking at how you could do things differently will really help you cope with the event. Before the celebration ask yourself the following questions.
- How was the experience last year?
- How could you have done it differently last year?
- Who was the toughest individual you had to deal with last holidays?
- Could you put up a wall or boundary that would make interacting with them easier ?
- What were the triggers that you dealt with last year? How did you respond? How could you respond differently?
- Who do you not want to see and why? How can you create a safe buffer zone if you have to be around them at the family do?
Find your ally
There will be someone at the family Christmas who you enjoy being with. Who do you want to see the most? This person is your ally. The one who will make it if not enjoyable, at least bearable. Figure out who is your ally? Reach out to them before the holidays. Start a conversation that you can continue when you are with your family. Sit next or close to them.
Change your mindset
Mindset has a lot to do with how we perceive a situation. Before we see people who challenge or hurt us we sometimes create a negative mindset which we build up before you even see them. You need to change your mindset if you want to have a better time with that person. Think about one person about one person that challenges you in your family. Now think about one quality you really do value and respect in that person. When you think of them focus on the thing that you can respect and value rather than the negative.
Lighten it up
Laughter is the best medicine in most situations. Why not try playing games, watching a movie? Do something with your family that occupies them stops the small talk. And that is often the place where the family scene starts. Better a row about Monopoly than something more serious.
The gray rock method
When you have a particularly toxic person at the feast respond positively when you are asked a question, but don’t give away information. Flip the conversation back round and positively ask them about them. People love to talk about themselves so let them. If you need to diffuse tricky conversations – be prepared. Plan stock responses such as “well that is one waý to look at it”. Respond positivity flip it and change the topic
There maybe members of your family that you simply don’t have anything in common with on the surface. But when you look deeper there will be something that you have in common with them. Try thinking about these before you see them. A little bit of social media investigating can be helpful here.
Try to understand more than be understood
It would be lovely if they all got us but families often don’t. Why not show them what you would like them to do by focusing on understanding your family. Show a little empathy. Be kind. And you might find they begin to mirror the same behaviour back to you.
Don’t engage. Take a break
If things boil up or someone says/ does something hurtful don’t put fuel on the fire by engaging take break instead. Now I don’t mean spend your whole holidays hiding in the toilet but you can take a legitimate 5 min break. Have a walk, go to the toilet or even take a turn on the washing up. Then find someone else to talk to.
After the holiday you may still leave the gathering feeling like you have done an emotional marathon. So you need TLC. And I mean healthy TLC not the nearest bottle of wine. Before you have the gathering plan how you are going to recover. Give yourself something to look forward. Call a kind friend and off load a little. Go for a walk, watch your favourite movie, go to the gym. Do something that makes you feel good.
But what if I have a really toxic family??
Ok so some people do have very toxic people in their family. And if you feel that you can’t go through another strained family you have to ask yourself this very simple question.
Do I really have to go?
Is it really necessary? Really? I know you will feel guilty but do you really deserve the emotional abuse that comes from being around your toxic relatives? Can you arrange to see the family on your terms? For example could you eat out together at a restaurant and then everyone makes their own way home. Meeting in public can often diffuse a toxic scene. And of course there is the question of how will you communicate it if you are not going. Don’t worry I got you covered. Read my article on how to take the hard conversations to help you along.
Family Christmas can be tough. However if you follow some of this advice you will come from a power place not a victim place. And by doing that you not only set healthy boundaries you also show your family how you want to be treated. As well you will come out of the holiday season knowing you did your best. Which means you won’t go into the destructive I should of dialogue.
Check out the Re:Root Your Life Facebook page this week for more articles to inspire you to survive the family Christmas
Love Emma-Jane <3