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How to Deal with a Dysfunctional Family During the Holidays & How Relationship Counseling Can Help

Although getting together with family during the holidays can be fun, old patterns, habits and issues don’t just go away. There is also lot of pressure to make the holidays “perfect”, which is a tall order even if your family isn’t dysfunctional. Being prepared and having realistic expectations can help you find more joy in the season and avoid potential pitfalls that can throw a wrench in your plans. Relationship counseling and these tips can help:


Keep It Simple

How to Deal with a Dysfunctional Family During the Holidays & How Relationship Counseling Can Help

Using the holidays as a time to hash out old grievances or heal old wounds isn’t a good idea. If you have difficulties with certain family members, steer clear of controversial subjects and don’t engage in arguments or drama. If avoiding a reaction feels impossible, walk away and take a few deep breaths. Stick close to people you get along with and lean on people you’re close to if you want to vent or need support.

Lower Your Expectations

Hoping that all your family members will act perfectly is setting yourself up for disappointment. Before you venture out for holiday family fun, take a few moments to reflect on your loved ones and prepare yourself to accept them just the way they are. Letting go of expectations may leave you pleasantly surprised. Being ready for the worst can help you stay detached if things go off the rails.

Have an Exit Strategy

Plan ahead and think about what you’ll do if things become unpleasant. If you’re coming in from out of town, you might want to rent a car so you’re in control of your own transportation. If you have a close friend or family member in the area, talk to them before you go and let them know you might need to spend the night. Knowing that you have options if things go bad can help lessen your anxiety and help you relax while spending time with your family. If you are attending individual or relationship counseling, talk with your therapist about forming an exit strategy before you go.

Put the “Fun” in Dysfunctional

Watching a favorite holiday movie, playing board games or cards, playing music, singing, sharing holiday memories, and other activities can take everyone’s mind off conflict and help you let off a little steam. If there are kids in attendance, spending time with them may be your best bet when it comes to having fun – young children usually aren’t caught up in dysfunctional family dynamics, so you can relax and be yourself with them.

Look for Joy in the Moment

Remind yourself that this is real life, not a Hallmark Christmas movie. People are imperfect, and that’s okay. Create your own special moments, even if it’s relaxing and enjoying the holiday decorations with a cup of tea after everyone has left. Simply enjoying the moment without expectations can give you a sense of calm and happiness.


Visit a Therapist Before the Holidays

Individual or relationship counseling can enable you to process family issues ahead of time and gain perspective on how to deal with dysfunctional family members and situations. If you’re anxious or stressed about the upcoming holidays, talking with a therapist can help. Contact a therapist at Kayenta to schedule an appointment today.