Not Looking Forward To The Holiday Family Feuds? Here Are 5 Tips For How To Avoid Fights

The holidays are fast approaching, and so are a slew of family gatherings – and for some of us, this raises a few concerns.

By Keelia Clarkson3 min read
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Ah, the holidays – they’re here, once again. It’s officially the coziest time of the year, when everything begins to come to a close. Over the next month, many of us find our way back home for the holidays to gather with our family for a few lovely weeks of celebrations and rest.

At least, that’s how the holidays will go for some of us. But for many of us out there, the holidays and time with our family are synonymous with conflict. We end up spending most of our time home tiptoeing around fights, holding our tongue, and wishing everyone would just get along. 

With different personalities, opposite opinions, and clashing values abound, it’s not always easy to see eye to eye with our family and have a warm, fuzzy, Hallmark-esque holiday season with them. But even so, it’s worth trying to keep the peace with our family, for both our sanity and to hopefully make future holidays more pleasant.

So how can those of us who struggle to get along with our family during the holidays, but still love them and want to learn how to get along better, make this season go more smoothly?

Manage Your Expectations

Sometimes, a family member feels nearly impossible to get along with, even when we’re trying our best; maybe they always attribute ill-intent to even the smallest, most innocuous of our comments, or they bash our beliefs mercilessly and expect us to take it.

And while this is certainly a reality for some, for many of us, the main reason we find it difficult to get along is because we’re expecting them to be just like us – to share our same values, to come to the same conclusions about whatever major world affair is occurring, or to communicate the exact same way.

The main reason we find it difficult to get along is because we’re expecting them to be just like us.

Just as we’d appreciate our family accepting the differences we have with them and loving us where we’re at, it’s helpful to extend the same courtesy to them. Once we manage the expectations we’ve placed on our family members from being in total agreement with us to simply being loving toward us, we’ll find it easier to gather around the dinner table.

Focus on What You Do Have in Common

The likelihood is that, even if there’s a lot we don’t see eye to eye on with our family, there’s something we share in common with them, something we can connect over. And often enough, especially when it comes to the holidays, it’s through the holiday traditions we grew up with that we can find some common ground.

Maybe we always watched The Muppet Christmas Carol together every year, or maybe we always managed to have fun when we’d all pitch in to make the family’s secret turkey recipe that’s been passed down for four generations, or maybe we used to bond over going caroling together. Using whatever we all have in common will help us to focus on our family’s positive side, no matter the other differences we have.

Learn How To Set Boundaries

Boundaries are necessary for any relationship to exist healthily, whether romantic, platonic, or familial. They’re our way of expressing how we are comfortable being treated by the person we’re in the relationship with, what we’re okay with, and what we’re not okay with. By setting our boundaries, we allow the other person to choose whether or not to respect them, and in turn, whether or not they can remain in a relationship with us.

When interacting with a difficult family, setting boundaries is one of the healthiest ways we can handle the inevitable conflict that will arise. Maybe our brother always wants to “talk politics” with us, which always ends up becoming an ugly fight, complete with name-calling and screaming. 

We can set boundaries with him by telling him, “I love you, but I don’t think discussing this is the best thing for our relationship.” Whatever topic always gets us into a fight or causes conflict, it’s in our best interest to set boundaries around it and to not take the bait when presented with it. The trick with setting boundaries is to do so firmly yet lovingly, with the betterment of the relationship in mind. 

Sometimes, Peace Is More Important Than Being Right

It can be frustrating to know we’re right about something, or to believe we have better insight about a subject, and have our family dismiss our opinions or even degrade them. And it’s understandable to make up our mind to convince them how right we are, and even put them in their place.

Making people wish we hadn’t come to dinner isn’t how anyone should spend the holidays. 

But when it comes to the holidays, we’re often better off choosing to value peace over being proved right. No matter how much more sensible we believe our position to be, getting into an argument over the dinner table, causing an upset, and having everyone walk away wishing we hadn’t come to dinner isn’t how anyone should spend the holidays. 

Know Your Triggers

We all have something that will get a rise out of us every single time. Maybe it’s our sister putting down our career choice, or maybe it’s our mom being rude to the guy we’re seeing, or maybe it’s our dad treating us like we’re still a teenager despite being a full-grown woman.

When we’re attempting to navigate the holidays and get along, it’s important to know our triggers. We have to know the things that will set us off and have a plan for how to handle them. Along with setting boundaries, this can look like going on a walk alone to decompress (not to stew and think of everything we should’ve said, but to calm down), listening to some music, or calling a friend who’s a good listener and might have some words of advice.

Closing Thoughts

Even if we love our family, getting along over the holidays isn’t a given. Families can be frustrating, difficult, and annoying. But there are a few ways to help keep conflict at bay and actually enjoy our time together. 

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