Dealing with family during the holidays can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to overwhelm you. Below are strategies to navigate 7 common stressful family situations that often arise during the holidays.

Stressed about seeing family for the holidays?

7 Tips for Handling Holiday Family Stress

1. Navigating Political Disagreements 

Within some families, political discussions may ignite heated disagreements or arguments. 

Preparation: Consider making politics off-limits by contacting family members beforehand. Express a preference to focus on their lives instead of delving into political topics. 

On the Day tactics: If political talk arises, gently remind your family that you’d prefer not to discuss the topic, steer the conversation away or excuse yourself briefly for a breather—a short walk or conversation with another family member can provide respite.

2. Coping with Financial Stress from Gift-Giving

Pressure to exchange gifts might lead to financial strain or opting out of holiday events. 

Preparation: Stay within your budget. Let your host know that you and your family won’t participate in gift exchanges this year. No need to over-explain — you can leave it at that. Or propose drawing names to reduce expenses so that everyone only gets one person a present. 

On the Day tactic: If stressed about gift choices, remember: You’re there to celebrate being together. It’s not about spending money. Most people cherish presence over presents.  They will remember that you were there long after they have forgotten what present they got, and from whom.

3. Addressing Religious Differences 

The holidays may come with some religious traditions, like prayer or certain rituals. These may feel uncomfortable if you and your family don’t hold the same beliefs.

Preparation: Your family dynamics play a major role in how you tackle this. If you can, strive for transparency and authenticity with your family. If it’s safe, communicate discomfort with specific traditions. 

On the Day tactic: If objecting feels awkward, practice gratitude during religious activities. During prayer, for instance, tune in to your private self and think about what you’re grateful for. That could be your family or having a place to go for the holidays.

4. Coping with Social Stress at Gatherings 

Varied preferences for gathering sizes can create social strain—some family members prefer small gatherings while others favor larger parties— which can be draining for introverts.

Preparation: To help manage the stress of family gatherings — big or small — set clear boundaries. Whether you would rather keep it small or large, briefly explain your reason.  And it’s still OK to ask that everyone who comes to your gathering gets vaccinated or wears a mask.

On the Day tactics: Coming prepared with simple one-liners is helpful. For example, “This is my comfort level,” or “We’re getting off-topic.” Less is more in these types of situations. If someone asks why you’re missing a party or wearing a mask, you can have a quick one-liner ready to go. If you’re an introvert, try asking an extrovert to be your “party partner” to help with conversations.

5. Dealing with Grief and Loss

Holidays may evoke the desire to openly honor departed loved ones, which might be too difficult for others. 

Preparation: Talk to your family ahead of time to discuss how to honor loved ones. For example, you could go around the table and say one thing you loved about him or her. Before the gathering ask others how they feel about it, and make it clear there’s room for negotiation. If they push back, suggest something smaller like putting up a photo of her or making her favorite food.

On the Day tactics: In difficult moments, take a few minutes to center yourself. Go for a walk, pet the dog, call a friend. Or pull up your favorite funny videos or dog photos on your phone — whatever helps you. The key is to have a few of these stress-relieving items on hand so you can use them when you need to. 

6. Balancing Time Among Loved Ones 

Holidays can mean balancing multiple family events or maybe it’s both of your divorced parents, plus your partner’s family. This can induce stress, guilt, and exhaustion.

Preparation: Inform each host about your time constraints in advance. And be honest with yourself about what you can manage. 

On the Day tactic: When you get to the party quietly remind loved ones about your schedule without making it feel like a countdown. Express it more like ‘I’m so grateful I get to spend this time with you today, even though it’s just a few hours.’

7. Handling Excessive Alcohol Consumption

Dealing with a family member who consumes too much alcohol and becomes unpleasant. 

Preparation: Grant yourself permission to leave if situations become uncomfortable. Ensure you have transportation arrangements so that you are not reliant on other people to get to or from the party. Drive yourself or call a ride service. Set yourself up so you have the freedom to leave if you need to.

On the Day tactics: Avoid anyone making you feel uncomfortable. Trying to be rational with them in that moment is not good for you, and it’s just going to cause more conflict. If necessary, give yourself permission to leave for your own well-being.

8. A Useful Self-Care Practice 

Another way to help navigate holiday get-togethers is with a technique called ‘bookending’. Do something ahead of time to help take care of yourself.  Maybe that’s some kind of deep breathing, hugging your dog or taking a walk. Then, after you’ve finished the event, do a happy dance, play your favorite song, or call your best friend. Do something to celebrate that ‘I did that, I made it through.’

Ultimately, try to accept your family members for who they are. This can help you find the tools you need to cope. Remember – while you can’t change others, you can control your actions. So give yourself the gift of acceptance this holiday season.

Why Contact Ewing Mediation & Family Law

Ewing Mediation and Family Law specializes in providing a compassionate and effective alternative to traditional divorce litigation. With over 30 years of experience, their expertise, successful outcomes, and compassionate approach set them apart.

Choosing Ewing Mediation means choosing:

  • Expertise: Over 30 years of skill and knowledge in mediation and family law.
  • Successful Outcomes: Consistent track record of helping spouses resolve issues effectively and amicably.
  • Compassion: Understanding the emotional toll of divorce and providing support every step of the way. 

If you’re facing divorce, child custody, or other family-related issues in Torrance and the South Bay , California, Ewing Mediation and Family Law can guide you toward a resolution that meets your legal needs while preserving your well-being and that of your loved ones. Contact them to navigate the challenges of divorce litigation and find a path forward that serves your interests well.