How to deal with difficult family during the holidays

Dec 5, 2013Maureen

There’s no place like home for the holidays……and isn’t that a relief? No, really—I think almost everyone can relate to the inevitable stress that comes from gathering with relatives during the holidays. Even those we’re glad to see can be a source of discomfort and even conflict. How to approach this challenge with difficult family members?This is a MUST READ if you have any difficult family members!

The Serenity Prayer comes to mind here, with its three parts that offer such wise counsel. Let’s take them one at a time (though not in the usual order).

1) “To change the things I can”

I suggest tweaking this slightly to read “to control the things I can.” In other words, try to spend time with your relatives when you’re well-rested, well-nourished, when your kids aren’t strung out (i.e. sugar-dosed, sleep-deprived, travel-exhausted, etc.). If you can meet some of your own (and your family’s) bodily needs for nutrition, hydration, exercise, and rest, you’re more likely to stay in control of your emotions and better able to let uninformed/snarky/nosey/otherwise uncomfortable comments pass. In other words, you’ll be able to…

2) “Accept the things I cannot change.”

Think about the family gathering(s) you’re likely to participate in this season. Most often, it’s a mish-mash of people who come from different walks of life, have different views on politics, religion, the economy, entertainment, etc. Is it any wonder that it’s hard to get along? On a day-to-day basis, most of us are pretty successful at choosing our company and knowing how to relate to them. But at family gatherings, it’s a much more diverse setting. Even though behaviors and attitudes drive you nuts, in reality you’re not likely to change. Unless…

3)“The wisdom to know the difference.”

Maybe the Lord is calling you to be the agent of change. This wisdom to know what to accept and what to try to change is one of the fruits of prayer. Start praying now for the guidance to conduct yourself lovingly, to speak your truth when necessary, and to remain quiet and listen actively at other times.

A number of years ago, a large group of church leaders gathered with the operating principle: “In essential matters—unity; in doubtful matters—freedom; in all matters—charity.” In other words: try to be of the same mind in the really big issues (you have to determine what’s essential!); but in things that might not be crucial, give people room to disagree. And in everything, let love guide and rule you.

That might be a good approach for each of us as we return home for the holidays.

HOW DO YOU DEAL with difficult relatives? Please share below!!!

>>If you have another minute, you don’t want to miss our most popular post right now: What Teachers REALLY want for Christmas (written by a teacher!)


Comments (16)

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  • Ashley @

    Dec 12, 2013 at 5:23 pm

    Great tips. I am one of those guilty of going crazy with big family gatherings. Not necessarily out of something I do, but I worry what others might do or say! Needless to say, I will be reading this again through the season :-) Thanks for sharing and linking up to What’d You Do This Weekend! Have a great night!

    –Ashley @

  • JLLopez1006

    Dec 11, 2013 at 3:06 pm

    Family is the best and worst part of the holidays! Thankfully we live far from any family now, but I still live in dread just thinking about the chaos of it all…. Thanks for touching on this pertinent subject. ;)

    By the way, stopping by from the MMM Linkup Party.

    Happy Holidays!


  • Sara (@mumturnedmom)

    Dec 11, 2013 at 12:10 am

    Very sound advice, which I try to remind myself of! #MotivationalMonday

  • rothj258

    Dec 10, 2013 at 3:08 am

    I almost died from laughing when I saw this at #DIYshowcase. Your points are so true, and amidst the chaos of hosting I’ll try to remember them. Gotta love the holidays…

  • Danielle

    Dec 10, 2013 at 12:38 am

    Really great post here! I think you’re totally right in being well rested to deal with certain difficult family members! Thanks for these great tips!

  • Victoria Welton (@VicWelton)

    Dec 9, 2013 at 10:35 pm

    I had some of these issues over the weekend! I wish I had read your post before I went but at least I will know how to handle it in the next couple of weeks :) Thank you for linking to PoCoLo x

  • Tara @ BAWB

    Dec 9, 2013 at 7:46 pm

    I really needed to read this today! And glad that I found it. Thanks for sharing :)

  • Helen Neale (@KiddyCharts)

    Dec 9, 2013 at 6:50 pm

    Thank so much for linking up to the Parenting Pin it Party – and I totally agree that you need to try and stay calm about these things, and control what you can so things are more likely to go the right way, and not tthe wrong way!

  • Christa

    Dec 9, 2013 at 4:33 pm

    I think these are great words, especially the wisdom to know the difference, when you mention leaving room to disagree. I think it is so important to realize that not everyone agrees and letting yourself get stressed about helps no one. Great advice, thanks for sharing!

  • Pinkoddy

    Dec 9, 2013 at 2:24 pm

    You know a good friend said this to me too and I am trying hard to do it – thank you for linking up with Motivational Monday

  • JaneEllen

    Dec 8, 2013 at 5:21 am

    I keep a copy of the serenity prayer here by my computer. It helps me so many times when I get stressed out and can’t do something. I’m not too good with ornery family members.
    My Mother used to love to pop out with a less than appropriate comment at holiday dinners. We’d all be eating quietly, sometimes speaking then all of a sudden out it would come. My Mother believed that because she was old it was ok to be rude and unpleasant to anybody, any time, any where. If she did something for somebody at some point she’d bring it up and demand payback. Her and I discussed her view points often, not to agree. Maybe it was her generation. She’s gone now since 97 and I miss her but not that attitude. I need alot of work.
    Anyway, I enjoyed your post very much. It’s a topic we don’t like to have to think about but it’s there none the less. We’re all individuals, we have our faults as well as good points. Lets hope all of you have relatives that are behaving themselves this holiday season.

  • Bonnie Frank

    Dec 7, 2013 at 4:11 pm

    That’s great that you used the serenity prayer as a framework for this post! I have pinned this to my “parenting” board on Pinterest so that all parents can see it. I imagine that many will read it…

  • pintentionalliving

    Dec 7, 2013 at 2:03 am

    Love the serenity prayer. Coming from a recovery family, it’s something I’ve heard, read, and prayed many times. Thanks for yet another way to apply it to life. Stopping by from the Practically Functional link party.

  • Jaime Oliver

    Dec 6, 2013 at 1:27 pm

    we have decided to be ruthless this year and are going out on our own for a meal and spending the day on our own, we text the relies to tell them all and no one was impressed but we dont care lol x

  • Rachel G

    Dec 6, 2013 at 1:03 pm

    I think those are great words to apply to handling family relationships at the holidays. You can’t change how other people act, but you can do the best for your own actions and situation–and hopefully the holidays will be a joyful experience even though no one’s family is perfect!

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