The holidays bring families together. In many cases, it includes relatives, friends or significant others “of” family that are not choice-selected, for our favorite day’s and night’s outings. These are all people we are spending the holidays with, however, and it would be ideal to actually enjoy the time that we are celebrating the holiday with our families. Conflicts can arise when different personalities come together, and are more likely to arise when people are not accepting of varied personalities.
It is helpful to try not to take things personally. We may find that others say and do things that we would never find ourselves saying or doing. It may seem at times that someone’s negative behavior is directed toward us. It is best to try not to take the action or comments of others personally. Even if we find it very difficult to believe that the comments or actions are not aimed at us directly, it is always better to make mental notes, and process these interactions for some time, before reacting.
Another important notion, is to witness and experience even negative interactions during the holiday, before actually reacting to anyone. It is optimal to try not to let the comments of others upset us. They have more to do with what is going on for them, and nothing to do with who we are. We can remember to use our known coping skills we may have available at this time. In this process, staying calm when frustrated with others, can prevent personal frustration from becoming a conflict or an argument with someone else.
Taking alone time when it is needed, and getting some personal space during the holiday, can even be necessary. If we are feeling the stress or the stress of others, taking some time to get away from the cause of the frustration or the crowd of people we are socializing with, can help us refocus, calm ourselves, or energize to return to “enjoying ourselves and the company of our loved ones.”
This is not the first year we are celebrating a holiday with others, whether it is with family, friends, or even a loved one’s family. It makes sense to take what we have learned from other holidays in our history or past experiences, so we do not repeat something we wish to avoid. It can be helpful to identify and become aware of what may be referred to as “triggers,” based on our past experiences. These can be events, situations, or people with which we have less tolerance and higher frustration. Is there something about one or more of your family members that has always bothered you, and he or she does not find fault with his or her actions, or he or she does not change in any way? Sometimes regular conflicts or (recycled arguments, I like to call them) appear between us, and the same family members every so often. It is nice to stay aware of these triggers before the holiday and during the holiday, to avoid that recycled conflict. If that day is actually on a holiday, it is probably better not to aspire to reveal this frustration during this time. These repetitive arguments with family members can take a snowball effect when we have other loved ones around us during the holiday as well.
Another purpose of increasing our self-awareness, in preparation for the holiday, is to identify things that we enjoy about the holiday itself, and the people with whom we will be spending it. We need to follow through on doing those things and maximizing our time with those people. It is helpful to remind ourselves throughout the holiday time of what those things are, so we can be sure to appreciate them, and the people we have identified as those that contribute to our enjoyment. These people we have in mind probably bring out the best in us, and appreciate our presence. If we can, it is a holiday made happier, to spend time around these people. We need to stick with those bringing out the comfort, fun, and laughter we need.
Have inlaws? Let us not even play that game with them during the festivities. We should follow the holiday protocol, and revisit any significant relationship concerns separate, from the holiday, at another point in time.
Have children? We may often hear comments or parenting suggestions from family and fellow holiday-goers about eating habits, and how to handle our children in different situations. Unfortunately, we may even hear criticisms at times, about our child/children or how we have been parenting them. Ignore it? If we can, then we should. We need to decide what is right for us in our parenting, at that moment. We have to remember we can stick to following through on that action, yet at the same time, try not to get frustrated by the different suggestions bombarding us. This is a time when we can remember the other ways we are handling this holiday, by remaining calm, and processing commentary from others, before reacting. A suggestion or input from others may certainly be helpful, but also may not. That is for us, as the parents, to decide. People will have opinions everyday, but it does not mean that we need to follow the direction guided by those opinions. Have parents? Parents often have opinions about us, as their children, so expecting to hear those opinions during the holiday can help us handle them better.
Know that you are not alone. We are all faced with higher stress, and concerns about conflicts within our relationships, and difficult interactions at times. Most people have experienced the same thing that you’re dealing with, at your event, whether they recognize it and choose to share it or not.
Most importantly, we must remember, at all costs, to avoid conflict!
Jennifer Shrier LCSW