It is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year. But for some, dealing with family during the holidays is anything but wonderful.

Family ConflictIn addition to the existing stress the holidays provide, family members know how to focus on differences, push buttons and trigger us in a myriad of ways. Unhealed trauma, past family conflict, sibling rivalry, differing views and opinions, and even toxic family members can all detract from the joyfulness of the season. If things seem far from festive, consider the five tips below.

1. Have boundaries. If a subject comes up that you are not comfortable with, explain exactly that. A boundary statement can sound like, “I am not comfortable with this conversation,” and you can excuse yourself for awhile. You do not have to tolerate any boundary crossings just because it is the holiday season. Remember that the way your family views you, or how they make you feel, does not define you. It is common for people to fall back into old family roles, but you do not have to fall back into yours.

2. Practice mindfulness. Take a moment to ground yourself and reduce your anxiety, center yourself and stay emotionally regulated. Minimize your triggered reaction, and work on your thoughtful response instead. As negative feelings will most likely surface, you can work through them and avoid exacerbating the situation.

3. Have realistic expectations. You might have an image in your mind of what the holidays are supposed to be like, and you could be disappointed. There are no perfect holidays or perfect families. Don’t set yourself up for failure by expecting this year to be the year no one fights and there is no drama.

4. Have empathy. Even though you might not agree with a family member’s stance or viewpoint, you can empathize with the feelings underneath. Having grace for loved ones does not mean you agree or support their opinions, but an empathetic response validating that you hear them, rather than a combative one, can go a long way in the pursuit of peace.

5. Remember the reason for the season. If possible, use this time to find gratitude for family and accept their limitations. Love when it is hard and remember to enjoy this time a year for the positives, instead of embracing only the negatives, and have appreciation for your blessings in life.

Wishing you happy holidays, peace, love and amazing coping skills!

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