Managing Family Conflict During the Holidays

November 18, 2021

The holidays aren’t always a wonderful time for everyone. In fact, they can be a large source of stress for many. Even if you’re celebrating Thanksgiving just with your immediate family members that you already live with. Disagreements or uncomfortable subjects may still be brought up at the dinner table. 

If you’re feeling added anxiety about possible family conflict this year, here are our tips: 

Set Boundaries 

Before you sit down for your Thanksgiving meal with family, consider if there are any topics that you would prefer not to discuss over your dinner. It’s perfectly okay to set boundaries. If you’re not ready to discuss something that might be brought up, or if a topic might make you upset. Establish these boundaries before you all gather together. By setting boundaries, you’ll be able to keep conversation topics neutral and prevent any conflict from arising. 

Clearly Communicate Your Expectations 

It’s perfectly okay to politely let your family know your boundaries and that you’d like them to honor them. Make a plan  of how you would approach specific subjects. Another area where conflict may arise this year is with family members having varying comfort levels with gathering during the pandemic. Recognize your boundaries and clearly communicate what you are or are not comfortable with. It may help to approach conversations using “I” statements, to ensure that you’re assertive without making accusations. 

Choose Appropriate Times to Talk 

If there is something you want to discuss with your family members, maybe choose a separate time to talk. If something is bothering you and you want to address a certain issue, you should feel comfortable doing so. Try to find a time when your stressed family member isn’t running around the kitchen or when you’re not in the middle of dinner. By finding the right time to talk, you’re more likely to have a calm, attentive and productive conversation. 

Keep Gratitude in Mind 

If you find yourself and your family members caught in a disagreement, try to diffuse the situation with gratitude in mind. Remember that despite the stress of the holiday, there are many things to be thankful for. Gratitude can put many situations into perspective and allow us to recognize what truly matters at the end of the day. 

Take a Break 

If you feel like a conversation is getting heated or making you upset, it’s also okay to take a break. You could take a short walk outside or go run an errand if you find yourself needing to take a break from your family members. This can help us return more at ease and better able to sort through what may be upsetting us. 

If you’re anticipating tension among your family this Thanksgiving, focus on how you can best take care of yourself. Be sure to honor your boundaries. By navigating our close relationships with empathy, we’ll be much more likely to enjoy this holiday season with our loved ones. 

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