How to spend a holiday with family
4 Tips for Surviving a Holiday Weekend With the Family
Who doesn’t love a holiday with an extra couple days off, maybe a little time with the family? Easy to love—if everything goes smoothly, that is. But for some of us, going home or hanging out with the folks tends to equate to turmoil, which can also equate to one looooong weekend. Here, we check in with licensed marriage and family therapist Carin Goldstein about how to keep the peace.
Know your family triggers. Every family has certain topics that can cause, um, some “heated discussion.” So if your sister’s career choices tend to bring out the worst in you, or your dad gets upset every time someone talks politics, try to direct conversation elsewhere. “Know what the fallouts can be before you go in,” says Goldstein. “I will literally sit down with my clients and do mental damage control, finding those trigger points.” If you do preventative damage control and know what subjects to avoid, you can salvage a weekend before there’s turmoil.
Set boundaries. Goldstein says it’s important to strategize and set boundaries with your family members. Sometimes, quality time flat-out becomes too much time. “You may need to stay in a hotel or with a brother and sister, or you might want to drive separately to the restaurant—you have to set those boundaries,” Goldstein says. “Even in the best of circumstances, most of us regress with our parents. Old roles come into play and you feel like a child again. You need to distance yourself from it to let go of things.” Spending a lot of time with mom and dad might have you reverting to old habits, and you might find yourself fighting over the same silly things you did as a teen. A little space just creates perspective, not a wedge.
Avoid power struggles. If your mom wants to make the dessert, even though you offered to, fine. If your brother insists on ditching the fam instead of spending an extra couple hours with mom and dad, don’t confront him—even if you’re a tad miffed. “Especially around the holidays, there are high expectations to celebrate. You want it your way,” says Goldstein, noting that guess what? You’re not always going to get that. Confronting a loved one will just ruin the whole vibe of the day —and wreck your family dynamic. “If you can avoid a power struggle, do it. Suck it up,” Goldstein says.
Provide a disclaimer. Sometimes, you’ve got sore spots with family members—especially your parents, who can be a little too honest sometimes. Although it usually comes from a place of love, they’ve got opinions you may not share. So if your dad can’t stop commenting on the hours your guy has been spending at his start-up (instead of with you), or your mom tends to make teensy critiques of your appearance, you’re totally within your rights to ask them to lay off before the weekend. “One thing I tell my clients to do is to provide a disclaimer up front,” Goldstein says. “Say, ‘Mom, really looking forward to this weekend, but I just wanted to tell you this topic is off-limits. We are not going there.’” Make her aware of how much it bugs you. An offhand comment won’t start an argument—or hurt anyone’s feelings—if it’s never said.