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Handling Family Conflict Over the Holidays

Two Long-Time Residents of Neptune Roadphoto © 1973 The U.S. National Archives | more info (via: Wylio)Ahh the holidays, a time of goodwill and cheer… and arguments! We all know it is bound to happen… the inevitable tiff between your aunts, your brother and your father arguing, or cousin’s having a few too many hot toddies and breaking out in a fight. Holidays are stressful. We get it. So instead of turning to food for comfort, take these steps to more effectively manage your conflict in a healthy and progressive manner.

1. Take a Step Back. As we all know, it is easy to get heated and fire back at family members without thinking first. Try your best to take a deep breath and take a step back. Usually, ugly words are coming out for an entirely different reason than the reason they are said.  Is your sister overwhelmed with her children and the loss of a job? Have your parents been struggling in their marriage? Try to cut people some slack before you respond with even uglier words.  Remember, you have boot camp and small group training to help you work these stresses out!!

2. Try to figure out where their interests lie.  Usually, when someone brings up something that will most likely start an argument or continues an already on-going conflict, they often have an underground interest that has yet to be resolved or come to light. When you take a step back, try to think about what is motivating this person to continue the argument. It may not be that they truly hate your thanksgiving cooking, but perhaps they feel like you steal the limelight by having it at your house every year. Offer up the opportunity for a change in Thanksgiving scenery if that is what truly is the root of the issue.

3. Consider forward-thinking resolutions. It is easy for families to get entangled in past hurts or wrongdoings. As we know, it is only with our families that we will never live down those awkward teenage years. Same goes for continuing conflicts. It is time to focus on forward-thinking resolutions to family conflict in lieu of rehashing all the old hurts and wrongdoings. The minute you open up the past and the “he said, she said” your holiday will spiral out of control and go downhill. Instead, try to think about forward thinking resolutions that can skip all of the finger pointing. The next time a main point of contention pops up around the table, cut everyone off and offer up a resolution for the future. While it may just give people something else to argue about, at least they will be arguing about resolutions, and not dredging up past hurts.

4. Know when avoidance is the best answer. While oftentimes it is better to address conflicts in order for an appropriate resolution to be found, there truly are times where avoidance is the better option. Knowing those times can be a key to a more peaceful holiday.  If there is nothing to be gained by continuing an argument aside from you being right, and in the process, hurting people’s feelings… let it go. Being right is not more important than hurting your family during the holidays. Or if you know that one of your family members is having a really hard time at work, perhaps cut them some slack if they say a nasty comment, or kindly respond, “that’s hurtful.” Sometimes just a reminder of behavior can be enough for people to stop what they are saying.

5. Have fun.  Remember that everyone has family stresses. In fact, family can probably stress you out quicker than any other group of people in your life. That being said, know that you love them and most likely, they are not out for genuine harm. People often do not filter their thoughts or intentions well, and even more so with family. Let some of the comments slide and relax and be happy that you do have a family to share the holiday with. Not everyone is fortunate enough to do so.

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