November 30, 2016
Kaitlyn Gitter, LPC
It’s nearing the holidays once again. That time of year where we sip hot cocoa, enjoy delicious meals, and partake in family traditions. The time of year that is supposed to be warm and fuzzy, where everyone smiles and gets along like one big happy family…or at least that’s the part that people put on facebook. The reality is that for many people the holidays are stressful! Your “to do” list may seem to be longer than ever and meeting the demands and expectations of family members just as unreasonable. We are taught to believe that being with family is something we are supposed to enjoy and look forward to each holiday but if this is not your reality that is OK. Cut yourself some slack, no family is perfect and if seeing Uncle Jerry and listening to him talk about why his kids are better than yours or hearing Grandma Lucile say you never come visit her is mind-numbing, I assure you that you are not alone. We all have unreasonable people in our lives, often times in our family. We may avoid seeing them most of the year but the holidays are a sure way to end up at the dinner table across from them. This holiday season I want to give you a few tips that I discovered in Dr. Alan Godwins book How to Solve your People Problems on how to deal with these unreasonable people. Consider this a gift to yourself this year
1. Expect the Drama
Go into your holiday get-togethers expecting there to be drama because there was last year and every year before that. Often times we go into a situation expecting and hoping it will be different and then are let down or surprised when our family members simply act the way they always have. By expecting the drama we can prepare ourselves and not set ourselves up for disappointment.
2. Don’t React
This can be a tough one especially with people that really know how to push our buttons but most of the time reacting only escalates the situation and leaves you feeling more miserable. So when cousin Marie starts talking politics just like she always does chose to not react. Chose to not respond emotionally, not as a way of giving in or letting her win but as a way to make the day more enjoyable for you. Let’s face it, feeling angry or hurt isn’t comfortable. You can choose to not react in that way.
3. Plan a Response
Since you are planning that your family is going to act the way they always have you are able to plan a response. So when your mother-in-law lays on the guilt trip about you missing last Christmas or that they never get to see the grandkids you can have a planned response that can be presented calmly and respectfully. In this situation something like “I’m sorry you feel that way, you are important to us and we are doing the best we can”, will often take the tension out of a brewing argument.
4. Set Boundaries
Lastly, set boundaries that work for you. There are different ways of doing this both physically and emotionally. In terms of physical boundaries it is ok to say NO when you are asked to attend four different holiday gatherings on the same day. That sounds exhausting and stressful, setting a boundary that works for you and makes the day more enjoyable. Agree to attend one or two of the parties and find another time to meet with family or friends that you missed on the holiday. Setting emotional boundaries means making others aware when their actions are impacting mental health and well-being. For instance, when Grandpa Joe makes comments about your choice in dating partners or Aunt Carol criticizes your adult child for not finishing school kindly set emotional boundaries. Making statements like, “I appreciate you being concerned about the well-being of me and my family but your comments are often hurtful”. Another option would be “I know that you care but please trust that I am listening to myself and doing what is best for me and my family. “ Then allow yourself to move on from the conversation and to not ruminate about it the remainder of the day. You can chose to not let these interactions ruin your holiday.
So in this season of giving, don’t forget to give a little to yourself as well. Listen to yourself and honor your needs, they are equally as important as the needs of other. We can’t change the unreasonable people in our lives but we can change the way we react to them
Godwin, Alan. 2011.
How to Solve Your People Problems.
Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers
Kaitlyn Gitter is a Licensed Professional Counselor at Esprit Counseling and Consulting in Neenah, WI. Kaitlyn believes that human connection and growth are the keys to emotional wellness. She is dedicated to providing a safe, comfortable, and peaceful experience to explore your life story. Kaitlyn works with children, adolescents, families, and couples and has a special interest in working with individuals who have an eating disorder. To schedule an appointment with Kaitlyn now, please go to www.espritcounseling.com