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GR8NESS expert Expert Reviewed
Family concerned with drama at the dinner table
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How to Survive Family Drama During the Holidays

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Right now, there are two types of people running around. Those who are ready to go home and check-in with their family. And those who are trying to conjure the perfect excuse to skip the family reunion in a desperate attempt to make it through the holidays without family drama.

Anyone with a dysfunctional family understands the struggle, perhaps a little too well. The holidays may never bee 100% drama-free. How could they? We are all so emotional during this time of the year, not to mention our stress meter is off-the-chart.

As a family drama during the holidays expert, I’m here to tell you there’s a way to go through all of that and survive to tell the tale.

Set Your Healthy Boundaries

If you’re dealing with toxic family members, don’t expect they’ve suddenly changed. No matter their behavior, the first step for setting healthy boundaries is by forgiving them. No, forgiving toxic people is not for them, it’s for you, it will allow you to step away from that environment and move on with your life.

Limit Interactions

Try to set an emotional barrier between you and those family members that get under your skin. Instead of engaging in conversations likely to turn into arguments, limit your interactions to a cordial hello and goodbye.

Be Clear on Boundaries

Do you have to spend the entire holiday season with your family? No. Be clear about your boundaries. For example, let them know you’ll be there for Christmas Eve, but New Year is reserved for your spouse and children only. The same applies to how long you stay, perhaps you only stay for dinner, or you prefer to spend an hour or two before dinner and then leave. Do whatever feels good to you.

Acknowledge the Elephant in the Room

If you’re hoping that this year will be different – don’t. We wish our families would cease and desist with their behavior, just as we wish their nonsense wouldn’t affect us as much. Acknowledge their behavior before you step into their homes. Accept their behavior, and don’t allow it to bother you.

Stop Them in Their Tracks

Sure, your uncle can start talking about why you haven’t gotten married, why you don’t have kids, and why your job is useless to society. Let them talk if it doesn’t hurt you. Once it does, stop them in their tracks. Raise your voice and be clear; you’re not going to allow this type of behavior or conversation around you. It might seem challenging to do, but I promise it feels incredible.

At best, you’ll realize they have changed since last year. At worst, you already knew what was going to happen, and you sit there and watch their usual psychoses play out.

Have a Plan

Nothing signals chaos to your brain like some good-old family drama. Take time to do a mental inventory of the usual shenanigans you’ve put up with during the holidays in the past. Make special note of any situation or conversation that made you uncomfortable or unhappy in the past.

Use these memories to write your plan and set your boundaries. Know precisely what conversations to avoid, how much you’re willing to take, and how to react to previous triggers. Repeat positive affirmations to stop the triggers, if you must.

Exit Strategy

Listen, if at any point things get out of hand, have an exit strategy in place. Hopefully, you can find friends who will let you crash in their house for the night. Keep an eye on the train or bus schedule to see if you can get home at any point throughout the night. Make sure your phone is charged so you can request a ride-share back home if you feel you need to.

Have a Friend on Speed-Dial

When you’re surrounded by toxic family members and your favorite cousin decided to skip the family event this year, dinner can feel lonely. Ask a friend if they’re okay with you calling them to check-in at some point throughout the night. Consider keeping your therapist on speed-dial as well, if they’re available.

A Word from GR8NESS

There’s so much you can do to stay sane during the holidays. Let go of the remote control and know that you have the right to create boundaries that separate you from all the family drama. You owe it to yourself to do so. The holidays are stressful enough, let’s leave family drama off the gift list this year.

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Geraldine
GR8NESS Writer
Geraldine is a GR8NESS Contributing Editor who writes about self care, clean makeup and beauty, mental health, and relationships – as well as natural remedies and fitness. She’s a coffee enthusiast with Venezuelan roots, a former ballerina, and the sunscreen patrol. Most of the time, you can find her working on her skincare routine or trying a new dance workout.
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