Survive the family holidays, perhaps even have a good time


Survive the family holidays, perhaps even have a good time

You can't avoid them, so try these tips to help avoid another very unmerry Christmas

Tymon Smith

Ah, the holiday season – a time to relax, a time to reflect, a time to remind ourselves of the necessity of family and friends – a time of rebirth and resetting and rediscovery. And if you believe that well you’ll probably just about believe anything.
As we all know, the flipside to the joys of family holidays is the very real triggering effect that’s brought on by being around your family for lengthy periods of time where the wine is flowing and tongues get loose. But there are ways of protecting yourself from some of the unintended consequences of the festive family gathering and helping to stop yourself before you do or say something that you then have to spend the rest of the year making up for. Yes we love each other but we also know how to drive each other nuts.
If you take a moment to think about it you know what the things are about your family interactions are that are most likely to set you off, so experts advise that prior to your arrival at any gathering it might be a good idea to vocalise these. Once you know what behaviours in others are most likely to infuriate you, you can set yourself some personal boundaries and react accordingly in the knowledge that, for your own health and that of the group, you’re going to take a step back, draw a deep breath and not escalate certain situations.
In some families it’s easier not to raise certain topics of conversation that inevitably lead to blood pressure-raising, red-faced, spittle-spewing insults and grumpy stalemates. Similarly, Uncle Avi is never going to change his opinion on the subject so rather than let his reactionary stupidity make your blood boil, just agree to disagree and leave it at that.
Apparently, using “I” statements is a good method for dealing with these situations. Not “I think you’re a retarded fundamentalist who has blood on your hands”, but perhaps something more along the lines of “I don’t share your opinion and probably never will, but hey, we’re still related so let’s make the best of it and talk about something else”.
Knowing what situations or topics of conversation might set off the family powder keg and turn yet another Christmas into an event you need another year to recover from before repeating the Sisyphean event all over again, you can set a goal for this year and decide on a best outcome version within the limitations of all the family foibles. Be assertive about what you want out of your interactions and stick to the guns necessary to ensure as positive an outcome as possible.
Even those who don’t drink a lot generally tend to let themselves have a few more glasses than usual over the holidays. On the one hand it’s an easy way of smoothing over the cracks that begin to appear at family gatherings, but on the other it can of course lead to regrettable situations where things are said that can’t be taken back , skeletons come out of closets, and there goes another unmerry Christmas.
You’re far more likely to destroy any gains you might have made through preparation and self-actualisation if you open that third bottle and you can be sure you and Uncle Avi are going to get into it over something. While it is the season to be merry and enjoy each other’s company and forget about the pressures of the year, you can still keep an eye on your alcohol consumption for the benefit of yourself and everyone else.
So look, families – love ’em, hate ’em – most of us have ’em and hopefully with a little bit of foresight and a touch of consideration we can keep each other mostly happy over the holidays and experience that rest and reboot we’re looking for, or at least as close as we can get to it.

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