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How To Deal With Frustrating Family Members During The Holidays


Whether we want to admit it or not, we all have family members that we just don’t see eye to eye with or who frustrate us. This can occur for multiple reasons, including overall beliefs or just simply not getting along. As we get closer to the holiday season, the more we have to interact with those family members. 

Unfortunately, you can’t fix other people, but there are ways to cope with those frustrating family members during the holiday season. 

Throughout this article, we will discuss how to cope so that your holiday season is still successful for you. 

Manage your expectations

Think about that person or those people who make you feel frustrated or uncomfortable. Try to think about the best, worst, and average experiences with them so that you can prepare for the best and worst-case scenarios. This can help you manage anxious feelings so you can enter the situation calmly instead of anticipating the worst and setting yourself up to be upset. 

Remember, you can’t control everything

While you may want to try to change them, that’s not realistic, so instead, try to be observant instead of reactive. Try not to take their behavior personally or try to control their words or actions. While it’s not an excuse, many don’t realize their actions are problematic. If they do know what they’re doing is wrong, try your best to not reward their bad behavior. Sometimes, they’re looking for someone to engage with them.

Find allies within your family

Chances are, if you find a family member frustrating or difficult to be around, someone else in your family does, too. Try to find a family member who feels like you and lean on them without gossiping. Take a moment to talk about something else you both find joy in to get your mind off the difficult family member.

Have a plan in place

This is broad, but it’s important to have a plan, including setting how long you’ll be visiting the same place as that family member. You can also think of other places within the home or space you can be where the family member might not go. Another plan you should make is to understand boundaries for what you’re able and unable to do. 

photo of a family gathered around a dinner table with food on their plates

If possible, avoid the family member

While it may seem impossible or like we’re stating the obvious, try to keep your distance from them. This could include not sitting next to them or across from them during a meal. Also, try to avoid being in a one-on-one situation with them.

It’s important to look at the holidays as a time to be with family and create lifelong memories instead of focusing on the cause of your frustration. Try to remember these things when dealing with frustrating family members:

  • They may think they know what’s best for you, but ultimately, you know what’s best for you
  • When possible, try to deflect and redirect. 
  • Remember, their opinions are theirs alone, whether this is on hot-button issues or topics around other members of your family.

Avoid controversial or hot-button topics

Within the past decade, topics of religion, social issues, and especially politics have led to heated arguments and discussions when those talking have differing opinions. If you’re hosting, it’s OK to make it clear that those topics should not be discussed. If you were attending an event at someone else’s home or in a neutral space, it’s OK to say you prefer not to talk about it.

Listen to yourself

Ultimately, you know yourself better than anyone else does. If you’re not comfortable in a situation, it’s okay to skip an event or avoid the situation or person altogether. The key here is to not use difficult family members as an excuse to not attend events just because you don’t want to go.

Remember, the holidays are meant to be a time to celebrate the good things in life, not to stress over difficult family members. Use the tips above as a tool to help you through this exciting yet sometimes stressful time of year. Reach out to learn more about the benefits of anxiety therapy.

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Green Heart Therapy provides in-person psychotherapy for adults, teens, and children in Los Angeles and online therapy across California.