Can you feel it? There’s been a palpable change in the air…it’s almost as though you can tangibly feel the holiday excitement.  With growing to-do lists, and plans still taking shape, it takes conscious effort not to get swept in the frenzy of holiday stress.  And, if you are like most people you may feel that regardless of the amount of time you put into your holiday preparations, there is one thing that can derail your holiday celebrations… family. Regardless of how easily our families get along, sometimes different personalities get the best of us making the holidays feel unpredictable and stressful.

Maybe you too can recognize a few of these relatives?

  • One-upper The one-uppers seem compelled to top any and all stories they hear. They are quick to share their story that is a “one better” to whatever anyone else shares.  When Aunt Martha shares that she finally made it to that Broadway show she’s wanted to go to, the one-upper quickly shares that they not only went to the same play, but they had front row seats and a back stage tour.
  •  It’s all about meEvery roads lead to the “all about me” relatives. What ever topic you bring up, seemingly with in seconds, they’ve hijacked your story and are telling one of their own that likely has nothing to do with the original story.
  • The GossipUnlike the “it’s all about me” relatives, with these family members, it’s all about everyone else. They long to share everyone else’s news whether it’s appropriate or not.
  • The boundary-lessYour business is their business, whether you want them in the middle of it or not. They will pry. They will push. They will diligently insert themselves.

You can’t change your family, so what can you do?

1.  Review your expectations

It’s easy to look at the image of a Norman Rockwell painting and wish that for your family holiday dinner. But, if your family hasn’t ever had the history of having calm picturesque meals, evaluate your expectations. Are you realistically looking at the holiday or are you building it up in a way that will only leave you disappointed? Adjust your expectations to something more inline with your family and then celebrate whatever unfolds.

2. Check your bags at the door

If you are carrying around with memories and past hurts, don’t bring your baggage to your holiday celebration. Starting the holidays with a shorter fuse due to unresolved issues will only set you up for a less than joyous celebration. Evaluate what you are holding on to and begin to explore forgiveness so that you can let go of that baggage once and for all.

3.  Choose to find the good

At your family celebrations, look for at least one good thing about everyone you celebrate with, even the family member whom you find most challenging.  You’ll be amazed how consciously doing this will shift how you look at your gathering.

4.  Remember, it’s not about you

Should family members become challenging, remember it’s not about you. Many challenging personality types are difficult out of their own insecurities. A positive comment can often reassure them and ease their fears. “Wow, it is so impressive that…” or “You must be so proud that…” A little reassurance can go a long way.

5.  Choose wisely

If you know you don’t see eye to eye with your Uncle Matt on politics, don’t bring up politics across the Thanksgiving table. And, if someone else brings up the taboo topic, be ready to redirect and say “this is a politics free zone” or whatever the sticky topic might be. You don’t have to go to every argument you are invited to.

6.  Have a plan

Depending on how challenging your family may be for you, it may make sense to have a plan to keep yourself emotionally in a good or safe place. Know when you’ve had enough and need to remove yourself from a conversation, retreat to a different room, and recognize when its time to head home.

7.  Remember why you are celebrating!

No matter how challenging your family may be at times, don’t lose site of why you are gathering and why you are celebrating.  The holidays are meant to celebrate and be with those you care about the most. Visit, laugh, enjoy!

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!  And enjoy the start of the Christmas Season!

What’s your favorite holiday tradition?

What’s one way you keep your stress in check?