Do you (secretly) dread the holidays? Have you got family members you feel you have to see but you would rather stay away from them? Perhaps you are navigating co-parenting with a toxic ex as well.

The holiday season, while often portrayed as a time of joy and togetherness, can also bring about challenges, particularly when spending extended periods with family members. As a psychologist, I understand that family dynamics can significantly impact one’s well-being during this time. Instead of envisioning a perfect Hollywood-style celebration, individuals may find themselves grappling with stress and discomfort due to the behavior of dysfunctional family members.

Weeks ahead of the holiday season my clients often start talking about how to survive this holiday season with as little distress as possible. Therefore, I wanted to share with you some ideas on how to navigate this time and remain emotionally connected to yourself.

Here are other posts that I have written about surviving the holidays.

Surviving the holidays after experiencing big life changes this year

How to not run out of steam and survive the festive season

You may find yourself compelled to attend family gatherings for various reasons. Often many people feel that visiting family is a tradition that they want to continue for the “kids sake” even if certain family members bring up more grief than joy. It can be a bitter sweet occasion when there some family members you want to see but the cost is that you have these toxic ones too or you a fear of potential repercussions for not participating. It is crucial to consider strategies that can make the festive season more bearable. Here are some psychological insights and recommendations to help you survive and even enjoy the holiday season despite the challenges.

8 tips to make this holiday season easier with your toxic family

  1. Set Realistic Expectations: Understand that dysfunctional family dynamics may intensify during gatherings. Setting realistic expectations for the event can help you mentally prepare for potential challenges.
  2. Establish Boundaries: You have the right to set boundaries, especially if certain family members consistently cause stress. Communicate your limits before the gathering, such as a predefined time limit for your participation. Consider suggesting alternative settings, like meeting in a public place, to reduce potential stress.
  3. Meditate: The more grounded and connected you are with your own inner world, this acts as a barrier to the outside world and potentially toxic people.
  4. Check Your Own Mood: Before attending a family gathering, assess your own emotional state. If you’re feeling stressed, anxious, or angry, be aware of these emotions and work on regulating yourself. Practice deep breathing and visualization techniques to stay grounded during the event.
  5. Less Is More: You don’t have to dedicate the entire holiday season to dysfunctional family interactions. Consider spending limited time with them and allocate the rest of your holidays to activities and people who bring you joy and relaxation.
  6. Be an Observing Participant: Rather than actively engaging in family chaos, observe interactions neutrally. Recognize that attempts to change family members’ behavior during heightened emotional states may be futile. If it becomes overwhelming, you have the option to leave.
  7. Introduce Small Pockets of Mindful Moments: Incorporate mindfulness practices, such as having a mindful hot cup of tea and being present in that experience. These breaks small breaks can contribute to maintaining emotional balance.
  8. Prioritize Self-Care: Amidst the holiday preparations, don’t forget to prioritize self-care. Engage in activities that bring you pleasure and relaxation, helping you cope with potential stressors from dysfunctional family members.

Remember, these strategies are meant to support your well-being during the festive season. If the stress becomes overwhelming, seeking therapeutic support can provide a space for reflection on managing challenging family relationships throughout the year.

Taking care of yourself is essential, and I wish you a peaceful and fulfilling festive season, regardless of how you choose to spend it.

Would you like more support?

Check out my services page here for further information on support with difficult family dynamics.