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  • Catherine Kirner, MS Candidate, Counseling Intern

4 Strategies To Survive This Holiday Season

The holidays are approaching…

As the weather turns colder, we begin to prepare for the holiday rush. With my parents living out of state, my husband, children, and I take turns alternating between visiting on Thanksgiving one year and Christmas the next. While the thought of visiting my parents and extended family reminds me of warm childhood memories, I'm also anxious and apprehensive about these visits (as I'm guessing many of you are, too). I personally worry about potential discussions on religious and political differences, noticing how my parents have aged, and whether my teenage daughter will get along with my mom.

To help manage any turbulence, I've found that there four main things I can do to help me prepare and make our visits go more smoothly. I'd like to offer these strategies and my own experiences with them in hopes that you find them helpful on your own family visits:

1. I prepare myself emotionally.

Because I know which subjects cause tension between my mother and I, I can prepare ahead of time what I want to say about certain topics. I have found that my parents’ beliefs and convictions have become stronger as they get older—as much as I would like to resort to be my teenage self who wants to be right, I can respectfully disagree with my parents. This perspective also gives myself a break, emotionally.

2. I understand what I can control.

As part of preparing myself emotionally, I also know what I can control. I know what upsets or triggers my mother, and I know that I am unable to change my parents’ mind about religion or politics. I know that I can choose which topics I bring up, and my own reactions. If tense topics come up anyway, I have the ability to state my thoughts and agree to disagree with my parents. Ultimately, I can control how I respond. I can also control things like how much I eat, drink, and when I need a break.

3. I take breaks, as needed.

Along with managing my own reactions, I can decide to take a nap or go to bed if I struggle with maintaining control. I can help prepare a meal, clean up dishes, or ask my husband to help in the kitchen instead if I feel overloaded. I can easily pull him aside and ask for backup whenever necessary.

4. I have a general idea of my goals from the beginning.

I like to remind myself that traveling home for the holidays also allows time for relaxing with a book, playing a game, going for a walk, or watching a movie together. I still treasure memories of homemade meals and playing Pinochle with my grandparents, and want my own children to create their own memories and remember their time fondly with their own grandparents. I try to keep this in mind from the beginning and especially when I'm anxious about the visit. Furthermore, I believe my parents would also rather spend time creating lasting memories with us rather than not getting along. I know our time is limited, and I make it my goal to make the best out of our moments together as a family.

Read this article from Psychology Today to learn more about surviving difficult family visits.


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[This article does not create a client-counselor relationship. This article is general counseling information and is not to be considered legal or medical advice. Please consult with your mental health professional before you rely on this information.]

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