How to Deal with Difficult Family at the Holidays

The holidays are a time of joy, togetherness, and generosity, but what if not everyone in your family is a joy to be around? Here are some of our best tips for reckoning with difficult family during the holidays.

How to Handle Difficult Family Over the Holidays

Know the Triggers to Avoid

If you’re dealing with a toxic family member, you know how challenging holidays can be. It’s important to use past experiences with this person or people as room for growth. Do not expect the toxic or difficult person to do the work; this is unfortunately largely on you. What topics or discussions set them off? Politics, religion, or even things like college football can all get people ready for conflict. You cannot change or fix a difficult person generally. You may care about this person deeply, as they are a relative of yours. But trying to fix or change a person’s ways is rarely the right way to go. If a person doesn’t want to change, they won’t. And trying to change them may only galvanize their beliefs. Instead, try to keep things civil any way that you can. If a topic is brought up that you know is about to start a disagreement, be direct with how you feel. If you’re not ready to talk about difficult personal matters or fundamental differences in beliefs, tell that person. Do not accuse the other person of starting conflict or being unchangeable. Point out that both of your sides are not likely to change from an argument. Deflect to another topic, or politely disengage from the discussion.

Respect Yourself

It’s very easy for some people to shut down and allow a toxic person to trample all over them. Maybe you tell yourself it’s easier to just agree with a difficult person or accept their abuse because standing up for yourself will only breed conflict. Maybe you only have to see this person twice a year, and you don’t want to make others uncomfortable. You should stand up for yourself. You are important, and your thoughts and feelings should not be diminished or dismissed. Be direct, and communicate how you feel without ascribing blame to the other person. Set boundaries. Establish your own limits with difficult or toxic people. Not every difficult family member is rude or confrontational. Some may try to inject themselves into your personal life. This is just as toxic as other behaviors. Advocate for yourself, and don’t waver in that advocacy.

You Can Leave

Remember that there is no scenario in which you need to feel unsafe. You don’t need to endure verbal abuse or bend over backwards for a difficult person. If you feel like you can’t control yourself or just need space, just leave. You also don’t have to go at all. The holiday season is rife with pressures, especially when it comes to family. But your mental health and well-being is the most important thing. If you aren’t able to cope with a toxic family member, leave. You may disappoint some people, but it’s not your fault. Express how you feel to others in your family or to the difficult person themselves. Sometimes, what’s obvious to you may be completely missed by others. There can be hurt feelings, and sometimes it’s best to give yourself distance and time. If you have to leave, for any reason, do it. Nobody deserves to endure abuse or uncomfortable situations to preserve their family’s comfort.

There are so many different situations that family gatherings create, and the holidays are full of opportunities for difficult people to corner you by the buffet. If you’re looking for more coping methods or just want someone neutral to talk to, reach out to the experts at SOL Mental Health today. We can help.

Recent Posts

How to Rebuild, Strengthen Broken Family Ties

3 Tips to Mend Your Familial Relationships   Strategies for Healing Fragile Family Bonds   National Siblings Day occurred on April 10th. It's great to celebrate our bonds with family members, but at times, these holidays can be a reminder of some people's...

Anxiety Attacks vs. Panic Attacks

What's the Difference Between Anxiety and Panic Attacks? Here's What You Should Know   Anxiety and panic attacks are common mental health issues, but they can be difficult to distinguish. So, in order to help you better understand how to manage your mental...

Stress, Anxiety Moving to A New City

We Can Help You Manage the Stress and Anxiety Around Moving   Here's How to Ease Your Stress When Relocating   Moving can be an exciting life change, but it can also bring about unpleasant feelings of stress and anxiety. In addition, adjusting to a new place...

Why Do People Seek Therapy?

Therapy Can Be Beneficial to Many People   It’s Not Limited to ‘Extreme’ Cases   Therapy can be highly beneficial for many people, and there are various reasons why people decide to go. However, some may be under the impression that therapy is only for a...

Coping With Change

You Got This! Unfortunately, we can’t see the future. While we can do our best to build habits and stick to routines that give us structure, sometimes, things happen that we can’t control. Whether it’s a breakup, global pandemic, loss of a job, death of a loved one,...

But it doesn't have to be a circle.