Now that the Thanksgiving holiday is just around the corner and other holidays are coming next month, many are preparing for extended family visits. Although for some the experience is enjoyable and savored, for others it can be a time of stress and conflict. This is due to the fact that earlier conflicts from childhood and adolescence become revisited when extended families reunite even for brief periods of time, such as over the holidays.
Old patterns of communication, personality conflicts, disturbing trait and characteristics surface once again, igniting old uncomfortable feelings and actions which can put a damper on the holiday spirit and cause a regression in everyone’s level of functioning. Furthermore, many then feel guilty that the experience was “ruined” and become saddened and angry.
Family dynamics remain fixed over time and although there is a continual wish that the next experience will be more enjoyable, coming to terms with the reality of imperfection is an essential coping mechanism for time spent with extended families. When individuals internally prepare ahead of time for periods of potential conflict, the outcome of the experience tends to be less disturbing due to a period of expectation and internal preparation. Here, although still stressful, the individual is not caught by surprise and can plan ahead for ways of the internally soothing themselves when conflicts do emerge, which hopefully do not include the increased use of alcohol, which actually can make matters much worse.
Aside from the essential step of internal preparation, there are also additional external manipulations that can be put into place to reduce conflict and stress, which can also be planned ahead of time. These include the following:
- Have a number of planned activities outside of the house.
- Consider having guests stay in a hotel rather than your house.
- Avoid conversations that are potentially dangerous or could lead to drama
- Review family rules with visiting children
- Set limits respectively when necessary
- Place limits on alcohol consumption
- Limit the amount of days of the visit
When such precautions can be instilled from internal preparation to some of the external ideas mentioned, the holidays with extended family members can be better managed.