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How to Survive a Stressful Holiday Gathering with Your Family


Ideally, holiday events bring us closer to those we love. They offer an opportunity to deepen connections with family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers. However, family gatherings in particular may potentially create conflict around polarizing topics and money. Family conflict can leave many of us reluctant to engage in future events. So, what is the most important way to minimize trouble areas?
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Establishing boundaries with others is the single best way to head off most family conflicts. In advance of the holidays, think through what has and has not worked well in the past. Write down what you would like to change and why you want it to be different. Make a plan in advance. For example, if certain discussions are volatile, refuse to become involved. High conflict topics include religion, politics, and money. Instead of participating, plan alternate activities like going for a walk, playing a game, reading a book, or cooking a new dish. You can also try observing the interaction between others. Observation increases your awareness of the usual pitfalls and helps you identify conversations you may want to avoid.
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Holiday spending can be tough to limit with so much that has to be done including extra entertaining which can become expensive. Setting limits is again a positive, proactive way to head-off financial conflict. Set firm expectations for gift giving and shared expenses in advance of the holidays and stick to it. Don't cave in to pressure from family members when you know it compromises your priorities and boundaries. While it can be difficult to disappoint family members, their expectations may be unrealistic and leave you feeling unfairly burdened. Realize that your primary obligation as an adult is to you and your immediate family.
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Sometimes, it’s easy to focus on the difficulty of family events and we may not understand the ways in which we can enjoy one another’s company. It’s important to show interest in your family members. Learn to ask questions and engage your family in ways that build their self-confidence. Be teachable. If a family member is strong in one area, say cooking, ask them to teach you. This helps them feel needed as they share their talent and knowledge with you. If a family member has traveled or reached an important milestone since your last visit, show sincere interest in how it affected them personally and what their next steps may be. Most of us feel special when others are genuinely interested in our lives. Family relationships are no different. Do your best to stay open. When you are welcoming to others, opportunities to learn about them are endless. And, new experiences provide a chance to grow those relationships during future family gatherings.
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Finally, holiday events with your family may improve if you can relax and feel less pressured to deliver the most perfect holiday. Most importantly, holiday time with your family can be enjoyable when we lower our expectations and accept our family members for who they are rather than trying to change them. Approach the holidays with a fresh perspective and above all, find the joy in them!

BY ANITA MARTIN  | Love Magazine

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Love Magazine: How to Survive a Stressful Holiday Gathering with Your Family
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