Dealing With Stressful Family Relationships During the Holidays

By: La'Tasha Givens Email
By: La'Tasha Givens Email

A holiday dinner around the table seems so serene but this is not reality for all families.

Rebecca Willcutts is reflecting on holidays from when she was a child. She shows us pictures from her childhood.

Her parents divorced when she was 8 and she says the holidays were stressful. In the past we've had disagreements but when they came it was finding that mutual ground."

She talked to a therapist to gain insight. "She coached me through it. She told me everything was going to be fine. She then would say, You are who you are and they're going to love you for who you are," says Willcutts.

Therapists also recommend talking with family members you have a strained relationship with before seeing them at holiday functions and let them know you have great expectations for your time with them.

Family therapist Leslie Clark MSW, LCSW says, in most families some members have past conflicts that are re-exposed during the holidays when everyone is together. Clark says most arguments start when people don't see eye to eye.

"People see things a certain way and they think their way is the right way and they try to force that opinion or judgment or criticism on others. I see that a lot," says Clark.

"If you're noticing you're being attacked in a situation, you could talk about how you're feeling in that moment so it could be using in "I" statements and talk about how you're feeling." Clark says using I statements like: I feel or I believe or I would like.... allows the speaker to be assertive while taking the pressure off the other person so they don't feel accused.

"Empathy goes a long way. If you can empathize and try to look at it through their eyes a little bit more, about where they are coming from," says Clark.

Willcutts says history doesn't have to repeat itself. "Don't go in with expectations just try to go in being positive. You have to think, lets make memories because this is one Christmas we're never going to have again."

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