Let’s face it…this “season of joy” is often a season of stress, angst and irritation. Families can be wonderful but there’s usually one or two that challenge even the most Christian among us.
Here are some tips:
First, think about last year and how did the holidays go? Did Uncle Fred get nasty after a few drinks? Did Aunt Clara strip you naked (figuratively) trying to figure out why such a beautiful niece as you is still single? Did the political discussions and differences get heated and end in someone walking off in a huff, leaving the uncomfortable silence as everyone squirms to change the subject?
Now, was last year the exception to the rule, or the rule when it comes to family get togethers?
Guessing it might be the rule, make a list of the players and their typical behaviors. If you’re married or have other sympathetic family members, make a game of it and number the list.
Now, instead of engaging in wishful thinking and just hoping for the best, see how many things on the list they actually do. How long does it take Aunt Clara to swoop down on this year’s victim for her emotional “strip search”? When does Freddy bring up Obamacare? See how many items you can check on the list.
Now this may seem negative, but that’s not the intention. We can’t change people but need to accept them as they are. Forewarned is forearmed as they say.
Be proactive. Perhaps getting there early to stake your place away from certain people or close to your allies can help ease the tension. As you see the conversation turn in a bad direction, get up and start helping with the dishes. Before you even get there or as soon as you arrive, express how happy you are to be there but that you have to leave by a certain time- because you have other plans, the kids have homework, or whatever will work. Remember, they may decide what you have to do is unimportant (or disloyal) so the less you say the better. You’re not looking for their approval, but setting a comfortable boundary that works for you.
Most importantly, pray before you get there. Ask God’s spirit of peace to descend on your family gathering. If there are particularly difficult people who always challenge you, remember Jesus says to pray for them. It won’t change them necessarily but will give you the graces you need to deal with the irritations.
And remember, as quickly as the holidays come, that quickly they go. If it’s difficult, focus on tomorrow and make plans to do something that you truly enjoy. After all, Thanksgiving is one day and Christmas lasts a season…and hey, we should be thankful every day. So don’t let the turkeys get you down, as they say!
May God bless you.
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