Doing Life Together

couple fightingWe all have them–one or more people in the family that make life difficult. A controlling in-law, a rebellious child, a loud and obnoxious uncle, or maybe the gossiping aunt. They come in all sizes and shapes. And every holiday season, we have to be intentional about how we are going to handle difficult relatives.

Here are 5 tips to a better holiday with family:

  1. Evaluate your expectations. Are they realistic? If you are expecting this to be the most wonderful time of the year and family members are rude, irritating or inconsiderate, it won’t be. Assess the strengths and weaknesses of your family. Don’t ignore the problems. Instead, have a plan to deal with the issues that will most likely surface and be realistic about how much change is possible this time of year.
  2. Anticipate the triggers and prepare in advance how you want to respond.  Most of us know the issues that upset us and turn into fights and arguments. This year, prepare a new way to respond that doesn’t lead to arguments. For example, when Uncle Bob starts lambasting you about the election simply say, “Well we all know where you stand. Thanks for letting us know,” rather than argue. If you respond in a new way, the interaction will be different.
  3. If there is too much drinking, fighting, or negativity, plan an escape. Go for a walk, a movie, visit a friend and take a break. If your family is too volatile, don’t stay with them. Book a hotel and allow yourself freedom to come and go. The idea here is be a part of the holidays, but have clear boundaries and a ways to take a time-out if needed.
  4. Pray before and during your time together. Prayer is a powerful way to center yourself, to ask God to help you be merciful and give grace. Lean on Him. He promises to be a help in times of trouble. So let’s ask him, by the power of the Holy Spirit in us, to give us what we need to best represent Christ.
  5. Make this year a challenge–the year you don’t lose it, the year you stay calm, the year you exercise forgiveness and refuse to take offense. Challenge yourself to control your reactions and work on the parts of you that contribute to problems. After all, that is the only part you control anyway!
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