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Survive the Holidays with your Toxic Family | 10 Tips that actually WORK

10 Ways to Deal with Toxic Family Members During the Holidays

Even though you know it’s coming, you still dread it every year. Most of us, if not all, have one or several toxic relatives that we’re forced to interact with around the holidays. As much as you try to talk yourself out of feeling triggered or denying that it will bother you, the negativity creeps back in.

Here are 10 simple tips to keep your temper in check and prevent you from charging across the table to strangle Aunt Betty:

  1. Adjust your attitude - prepare ahead of time, focus on the positive

  2. Have realistic expectations - 1) acknowledge that you wish they were different, then 2) prepare to accept them even if they behave as they always have

  3. Keep potentially triggering topics off-limits - politics and religion are typically hot topics - feel free to change the subject

  4. Set secure boundaries - you get to decide how much contact you have with them. Think about this and make a plan before you go

  5. The only thing you can control is your reaction - any attempt you make to control other people actually puts you under their control. Practice saying “let’s not get into that right now.” Feel what you feel, know what you know, then let your family members free to do the same. Accept full responsibility for your healing

  6. Don’t drink too much - it might seem obvious but even light-hearted fun can turn ugly quickly when alcohol is involved

  7. Get active - play games that require concentration, physical activity, or laughter

  8. Practice gratitude - take a time out to reflect on all of the good things

  9. Practice tolerance - practice empathy by acknowledging that we all do irritating things. It’s likely that the irritation of others will only last a little while

  10. Bring a happy reminder - a family photograph, funny text, slip away to talk to a friend, trinket in the pocket

Bonus Tip: Practice the Participation Observer game (either alone or with friends)

  1. Queen for a day - arrange to meet with friends before the holidays and again after the holidays. You’ll each tell your story about your toxic family members then vote to see whose experience was the most horrendous. The one who wins is crowned queen and the others buy her lunch.

  2. Comedy club - instead of looking to your family for love and understanding look to them for comedy material. After the holidays, meet with your friends and retell your stories. You may find a sense of lightheartedness in being able to laugh at it.

  3. Dysfunctional Family Bingo - before the holidays, meet with friends and provide each person with a bingo card. Each person fills the card with dysfunctional phrases or actions that are likely to occur while with their families. Take your card to the family gathering and mark off each item that is fulfilled. If no one’s card is filled, the one who has the most slots filled wins.

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Blue Sage Counseling and Wellness, and the information provided by Ashley Francis, is solely intended for informational and entertainment purposes and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis, or treatment regarding medical or mental health conditions. Although Ashley Francis is a licensed marriage and family therapist, the views expressed on this site or any related content should not be taken for medical or psychiatric advice. Always consult your physician before making any decisions related to your physical or mental health.

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