Don’t Let a Holiday Visit Turn Into a Battleground
Heading to grandma’s house for the holidays can be fraught with stress. You know someone is going to start talking about politics, and there will be a battle between your aunts about who should be caring for their mother more. It’s enough to make anyone want to stay at home and sip cocoa all winter.
But family holidays are important, and making meaningful connections is the cornerstone of family love. Plus, you’re making wonderful memories for your children that they will keep their whole lives. You just have to find a way to get through it without a fight.
If you’re suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), you may have an even tougher time facing holidays with family. SAD is a depressive condition that is affected by the changing of the seasons, most often occurring in winter. Winter means shorter amounts of daylight and colder temperatures, which can make it even more difficult to function. People with SAD can often have the potential to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol, leading to addiction or relapses in addiction. If you think you have SAD, talk to your doctor. Treatments for SAD can include anti-depressants or light therapy.
Before the big visit, practice in advance things you’ll say to relatives when you know they’re going to say something hurtful or inappropriate: “Thanks, I’ll think about that,” “Why don’t we get the facts,” or “I’m sorry you’re upset.” If someone comes to the event ready to rant about politics or conflicting sports allegiances, ask respectfully that it not be discussed. “Can we not talk about that? I’d like this holiday to be full of peace and happiness.” Who can argue with that?
People always want to talk about themselves, so deflect whatever comment they’ve made and ask about their children, their job or their new haircut. Always be full of compliments, so you can make that person feel good, not criticized.
Keep the kids out of the conflict, too. They love their family members, and they don’t care if you and your sister are bickering about a piece of furniture that you both felt you should inherit.
Put on a happy face for the kids, and allow them to enjoy this time and play with their cousins. Keeping the tone of the event light will help prevent discord. Have activities to keep everyone entertained, such as board games, movies and group party games.
If you’re staying with family, make sure to “earn your keep” by cleaning up after yourself and your family, helping with the cooking and washing up, hanging towels back up after using them, being respectful of house rules and the like. Being a rotten houseguest will always sow resentment. Treat someone else’s house like you’d want them to treat yours, even if it is just your mother. She doesn’t want to clean up after you like you’re a teenager again. It’s also a good idea to bring a hostess gift: just a little something to say, “Thank you for allowing us to stay with you.”
If things get rough — too much stress, too much bickering — step away. Go for a walk or just sit outside on the porch to decompress. If you just take about 15 to 20 minutes to gain some peace and perspective, you’re likely to come back to a calmer atmosphere.
Remember to be thankful. Spend some time thinking or talking about how much you love your family and are glad you’re able to see them during the holiday season. Appreciating your family, even with all their faults, will make you feel much better about your visit.
Keeping a peaceful mindset will make your holidays more merry and bright.