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Effectively Handling Family Situations During the Holiday Season

The holiday season can be a particularly difficult time of year for many of us. Frequently, the holidays mean seeing and spending time with family, which, even in the healthiest of relationships, can sometimes prove challenging. If you are someone who experiences difficult, or even painful, family dynamics and you anticipate challenges during this holiday season, we have some suggestions for you! The most important thing is to take care of yourself to the best of your ability so that you can go into the situation as the best version of you.

Here are some self-care tips:

1.) Engage in physical self-care! Get adequate sleep, nourish yourself properly, take walks or engage in physical activity.

2.) Engage in stress reduction techniques! A few of our favorites include deep breathing, listening to relaxing music, and journaling.

3.) Come prepared! It may be helpful to come to family gatherings prepared, having a few safe conversation topics planned in advance and staying away from topics that may potentially cause disagreement or fighting.

Speaking of fighting, if disagreements do arise there are some things you can do. Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), created by Marsha Linehan, teaches us several skills for interpersonal effectiveness. When it comes to dealing with a relationship you care about preserving, DBT tells us to use the GIVE skill.

1.) (be) Gentle. Be respectful and try not to attack, threaten or judge.

2.) (act) Interested. Listen to the other person and appear interested in what they have to say, don’t interrupt them or talk over them.

3.) Validate. Validate what they are saying and how they are feeling.

4.) (use an) Easy Manner. Be light-hearted and smile, not passive aggressive.

Remember, if you need to remove yourself from the situation, you should feel free to do so, taking 
care of your own well-being is incredibly important and you should never feel obligated to
 jeopardize your own mental health for another person’s needs. Sometimes walking away from 
a conflict is the best thing you can do to preserve the relationship and diffuse tension. Being with family is difficult, but with the right tools, we can hopefully make this a great 
holiday season.

By: D Belinsky

Mental Health Counseling Intern

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