The Danger

Do you enjoy the holidays? Many people get together on Christmas to celebrate the holiday and strengthen family bonds. As the generations sit around the table, enjoying the delicious food, they have the opportunity to revel in their unity as a family regardless of what happens the rest of the year.

Sounds ideal. More often than not, however, when you assemble with your extended family you will recall past hurts or feelings of neglect. Your emotional pain could then easily outweigh your enjoyment of being together again.

Therefore, here is an updated list of guidelines to help you make the holiday celebration a truly joyous one.

Strategies for Celebrations

Strategy #1 for all family celebrations is to “leave the past in the past.” Family get-togethers are the worst times to “clear the air.” Everybody’s already on edge; whether from the excitement of the day, the tension from hosting it or the effort to get there on time. Bringing up a remark or a telephone conversation from your last encounter is like adding fuel to the fire. So swallow your pride along with the food and keep mum.

Strategy #2 follows from #1. Do not carry a “hidden agenda.” Remember that family events are public gatherings. Discussions of a personal nature should take place only in private.

Strategy #3: Examine yourself in the mirror. Are you slipping into old patterns of behavior? Endeavor to respond in new ways to old triggers. This time, when your brother teases you, laugh along with him. Try to show your relatives the side of yourself that your business associates would recognize; your calm, professional manner works well in private, too.

Strategy #4: Similarly, examine your relatives in light of who they are, not who you’d wish them to be. They may be fatter, balder, greyer or less accomplished than 20-30 years ago. But so are you. Accepting others can help us accept ourselves.

Strategy #5: Look for the positive and communicate the positive. Although it may be difficult at first, concentrate on whatever’s going right and ignore or play down the problems. For example, make an effort to give compliments to as many people as you can, especially the host and hostess.

Strategy #6: If you have young children, strive to keep them busy and well-fed. That achievement alone would be immensely helpful to your extended family. Above all, don’t get involved in someone else’s crisis. Remember, your nieces and nephews are not your children and you do not need to discipline them. If the stress becomes overwhelming, take a break from the tumult and find refuge in another room.

Strategy #7: Prepare for this get-together as you would for a business meeting. Know the personalities that you’ll encounter, bring something interesting to the table discussion, and put your best foot forward. Hopefully, you’ll walk away with a stomach full of food and not bile.

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Author's Bio: 

Dr. Mona Spiegel, a licensed psychologist, has worked for many years as a diagnostician and therapist in Rockland County, NY. In addition, she founded MyFamilyCoach to provide professional coaching on the telephone for women who want guidance but do not need therapy. She focuses on parenting issues, relationship and communication skills for single and married women, and successful transitions through life. Dr. Spiegel is a member of the International Coach Federation and the American Psychological Association. Visit her at myfamilycoach.com.