FamilyMeans shares tips for difficult family gatherings

The holidays aren’t joyous for everyone
FamilyMeans shares tips for difficult family gatherings 

STILLWATER, Minn., Dec. 16, 2011— Not everyone looks forward to the holidays and the family gatherings that so often go along with them. 

The holiday season can be a difficult one during family gatherings when difficult relatives are involved. In fact, according to Leonard Felder, the author of “When difficult relatives happen to good people,” discovered that 70 percent of people have at least one frustrating relative.

“Sometimes people find themselves distracted by worry or irritation about a family member who is difficult or insensitive,” said Pat Lockyear, coordinator of the Employee Assistance Program at FamilyMeans. “These kinds of feelings even make people dread getting together with family for holidays or special occasions.”

But, there are strategies people can follow to prepare themselves mentally and emotionally to handle interactions and being around relatives they find difficult. Some of these tips are:

  • Let go of unrealistic expectations for yourself and family members. Instead, determine to enjoy yourself even if everything doesn’t go as planned.
  • Plan ahead by thinking about past experiences and how you might change what you do or say to change the dynamics.
  • Think about topics you can discuss safely and ways you can show interest without offending anyone. Create a list of open-ended questions you can ask.
  • Avoid arguments and past grievances. When others bring up hot-button topics, gracefully change the subject.
  • Avoid over indulging in alcohol. Alcohol lowers inhibitions and can bring out the worst in people. Know your limits.
  • Refocus on reasons to be grateful, and list reasons you are thankful for family gatherings. Being grateful will make it more difficult to feel resentful or annoyed.