Managing Family Conflict around the Holiday Table

By Megan Morrow
Published November 20, 2019

We sometimes have visions of holidays filled with blissful moments and loving families. However, reality is often different. From arguments that have been simmering for decades to shifting family dynamics, the holiday season can sometimes be more stressful than joyful.

First, remind yourself that it is not your personal responsibility to make everyone’s holidays perfect. Then, you can set the table for a better family experience during the holidays by considering the following:

  • Set boundaries. Creating healthy boundaries can make challenging situations more bearable. For instance, agree that your part of the family will spend two hours at a holiday event if things tend to get heated over time. Let family members know that certain topics are off-limits. Tell the relative who is always late that dinner will start at 6 p.m. and stick with that schedule regardless. Boundaries can prevent arguments and simplify sticky situations.
  • Divide and conquer. If your family is in the midst of a divorce or part of the family lives a long distance away and gives you a hard time for not visiting regularly, you might consider taking turns. For instance, you can celebrate with one part of the family in November and another in December, or you can switch off years to reduce conflict. If you need to split up to tackle events, that is another option.
  • Adopt a sense of humor. Even the best of families have their difficult moments, so it is wise to be prepared for some conflict – the uncle who uses colorful language or the cousin who is always ready for a fight, for example. If you can have a sense of humor about the challenging moments and remember that “this too shall pass,” it can help you survive the more heated moments.
  • Create a new tradition. If a situation has turned unbearable, it is acceptable to say “no” to previous traditions and create one of your own that invokes more joy and less conflict.

After making it through a challenging meal or get-together, reward yourself with time with close friends, a movie marathon or a long walk by yourself. Focus on the things, experiences and people that fulfill you as you do your best to release the stress of the season and welcome in the warmth and celebration.

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The material presented here is for information purposes only and is not to be considered an offer to buy or sell any security. This report was prepared from sources believed to be reliable but it is not guaranteed as to accuracy and it is not a complete summary of statement of all available data. Information and opinions are current up to the date of publication and are subject to change without notice. The purchase and sale of securities should be conducted on an individual basis considering the risk tolerance and investment objective of each investor and with the advice and counsel of a professional advisor. The opinions expressed by Ms. Morrow are strictly her own and do not necessarily reflect those of Herbert J. Sims & Co., Inc. or their affiliates. This is not a solicitation to buy or an offer to sell any particular investment. All investment involves risk and may result in a loss of principal. Investors should carefully consider their own circumstances before making any investment decision.

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