The holiday season is all about family — but that’s not always a good thing. Many people come from dysfunctional families where frustrations, resentments and disputes tend to pile up over the years, creating what can be a toxic — and volatile — situation.
So, how do you handle the holidays around your family without losing your cool? Here are some things to try:
Anticipate trouble where you always find it
More than likely, you already know which family members press your buttons. If your brother-in-law is constantly trying to bait you and “one-up” you, assume that he’ll do it again this year. The predictability of the same tired old conflicts can help you keep an emotional distance and avoid being overwhelmed.
Practice establishing boundaries
Are intrusive questions and judgmental comments a given from some of your relations? It’s time to rehearse your responses ahead of time. You don’t have to pretend that verbal abuse is okay in order to keep the family peace. Instead, practice ways of shutting the comments down quickly and making it clear that further comments are neither appreciated nor acceptable.
Know your own triggers and signals
Most of the time, you can feel anger and frustration starting to build. Pay attention to the cues your mind and body send to you in the early stages so that you can avoid blowing up. Once you sense that you’re reaching the limits of your tolerance, it’s time to go.
The last thing you want to do is get into an outright fight with one of your relatives — especially if it turns physical. If something happens, however, and you end up charged with assault or domestic violence, take immediate steps to protect your future.