6 Tips for Managing Family and Friends During the Holidays

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6 Tips for Managing Family and Friends During the Holidays

By Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD

Photo:Family and Friends/PublicDomainPictures


Feel the stress of the holidays yet? If not, consider yourself lucky… and prepare for the tension yet to come. While you might look forward to the obligatory family or friend gatherings ahead, you most likely also have some misgivings – most people do. Respecting your feelings (positive and negative) is key to enjoying the holiday season.

When you acknowledge what’s going on for you, you can help yourself by attending to it. For instance, if you are hungry or tired, you can consciously choose to sleep, eat, or take a break. Similarly, if you are concerned about having to face Aunt Millie’s embarrassing drunkenness at a family gathering, you can look for emotional support from others and make a plan for how to manage the situation. There are many ways in which knowing and respecting your experiences can help you to respond to holiday stresses, such as:

Ask for support. Share your joys and concerns with the people closest to you. You might also ask them for help with solving particularly thorny problems.

Accept people as they are. Make your goal to have an enjoyable holiday. Focus on what you value, appreciate, and respect about family and friends. It can help to remember that they – like you – are likely stressed and not at their best. So, choose to let their upsetting behavior go. You can always address grievances at a later time.

Plan for expected problems. Figure out ahead of time how you want to respond to particular behaviors or traits of people that you know will arise. You might ignore or minimize disparaging comments or insults from a relative you know is critical. It sometimes also helps to remember that they are stuck with themselves, unable to get a break from all that unhappiness. You, on the other hand, can just walk away. If you find someone’s behavior totally unacceptable, then find a way to avoid the person, or even skip the event that the person will be attending, if necessary.

Remember, you can say NO. You do not necessarily need to attend a party or participate in an activity just because someone asks. In fact, if doing these things would be overwhelming or make you resentful, then seriously consider whether you would be better off saying no – or finding a compromise that would work for you.

Stop comparing yourself to others. Too often, when it seems like the world is happily enjoying their material riches or wonderful relationships, it leads people to feel worse about their own lives. As they do this, they also fail to notice the weaknesses or difficulties of those they place on a pedestal. If this happens to you, pay attention to different aspects of your life and how they make you feel – apart of comparing yourself to other people.

You might find that there is more in your life that you appreciate than you recognized. If not, note how your observations may be selective, almost designed to make you miserable. Ask yourself whether the adage “the grass is always greener on the other side” applies to you. For instance, you might barely register having a supportive family as you hammer yourself with criticisms about not being a financial success. Next, find ways to balance out your thinking by recognizing your strengths or positive attributes and taking the time to really appreciate those positives.

If you have young children, maintain their routine. This is very important if you do not want your holiday season filled with crying and tantrums. Also, be sure to give them what they need, such as eating well and getting enough sleep. To do otherwise is simply asking for trouble.

Give the above suggestions serious consideration. By knowing and respecting your experiences, and responding to them in constructive ways, you will increase your chances of creating happy memories.


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