Do any of these words describe your family : Aggravating, Irritating, Dysfunctional, Crazy, Weird? I’m betting that most of us can circle one that fits at least some of the time. “We put the ‘fun’ in dysfunctional” is a popular saying around this time of year. Truth be told, it would be difficult to find the family that is without their own unique set of problems and quirks.
This year may pose some added stress in light of the recent political situations. The Holderness Family, known for their creative Youtube parodies on family life, created a video about that describes how to avoid political conversations during the Holidays. Though I wouldn’t suggest to “drink away your feelings” (in fact, avoiding alcohol in these tense situations is best!) or suppressing your anger, creating a list of topics to talk about other than politics or other subjects that get emotions running high is a great idea.
The video is just for a little fun to lighten the mood, but we do have 10 practical tips for dealing with family. In a few days, many of us will travel to be with family and celebrate. It’s typical that many of us will see our families a bit more during the holidays than at other times of year and that can lead to stressful situations. Though we are with people we love (keep reminding yourself of that!), these get togethers can be a struggle for many and may bring up painful reminders of the past. Family relationships are often some of the most difficult and tender relationships that we have. It takes work to be Christ-like to our family members, but it is important that we show mercy and sow love within our own familes.
As with everything in the Christian life, prayer comes first. Make it a priority to pray for your family beginning today. Pray for peace and joy in your home during this season. Pray for yourself. Ask the Holy Spirit to be your guide and to fill you with His gifts so that you can best represent Christ to those you love the most, even when it is difficult to do so. Spend time in front of the Blessed Sacrament as often as you can to help strengthen your spirit.
When you arrive at your family gathering, commit to serving. Do the jobs that no one else wants to do. Let others go first in the food line. Talk to your great uncle that everyone else ignores. Play some games with the kids so that other adults can relax. There are countless opportunities to serve with the love of Christ. Let your actions be your witness.
Does this sound harsh? Most of us need to toughen up just a bit. We live in a culture that takes everything personally. Yes, sometimes your relatives might say things that are offensive (“Looks like someone had a lot of ice cream in 2016,” “So, when was the last time you went on a date?” “Still can’t find a job, huh?”). We have to learn to let these slightly infuriating comments roll off our backs. Check out this post for some tips. These statements often have nothing to do with us and everything to do with the insecurities of the person making them. It’s not worth getting upset over. In the words of a famous Disney princess, Let it go. Let it go.
The holidays are often about finding a balance so that you don’t become too stressed or overwhelmed in one place. If you’re married, this is especially important. You need to spend time with your own family as well as your spouse’s family and also find time for your marriage. Creating boundaries and establishing traditions can be very helpful. Just as it can be difficult to be around family, it can be even more difficult to be apart from them and spend time with your in-laws. It is necessary that you don’t allow one family to occupy all of your time and that you make the sacrifices necessary to be with your spouse’s family. Remember, now that you are married, they are your family too.
In addition to creating time to be with both sides of your family, take time for yourself. What is it that allows you to unwind and clear your mind? Go for a run, read a good book. Whatever it is that gives you a chance to regain composure and start over again, make time to take care of yourself.
The holidays are not the appropriate time to engage in political or religious debates. Often there are people within our own families whom we strongly disagree with, but if you feel the need to engage in a battle, refrain out of courtesy for everyone else. If you are convicted that the Holy Spirit is prompting you to say something or stand up for your beliefs, invite that relative out for coffee or dinner, and pick a time and place away from the family meal. A simple, “You are probably already aware that I don’t agree with that, but let’s talk about it another time”, can show the other person that you are not going to discuss the subject further.
It can be so difficult to come back home to Mom and Dad’s. They often fail to realize that you have grown into an adult and might revert to treating you as a child. Though honoring them doesn’t mean you have to give in to all their demands, remember that this duty is so central that God gave us a Commandment: love and honor our parents. This looks different for adults than it does for children, but they do deserve our respect and we are instructed by out Church to care for them as they age. Pray about ways that you can show your parents honor.
It can be so easy to focus on the negatives – your grumpy aunt, your annoying little cousin, or your overbearing mom. However, there are things that you love about these people. When you find yourself getting aggravated, play a mental game. Look around the room and think of one positive thing about each person there. Do this as often as necessary. God has put these specific people in your life for a reason. What is He trying to teach you through each one of them?
Of course, forgive those who have hurt you in the past. You are only hurting yourself when you hold on to grudges and can’t let go of things that happened long ago. If you struggle with forgiving someone, seek the counsel and wisdom of a priest. Offer it up in prayer. Remember that you also need to forgive yourself. In stressful times, we often make mistakes. You might say something you don’t mean to a family member or act in a way you didn’t intend during the holidays. If this happens, seek God’s forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and be refreshed.
There are so many people in the world who are spending the holidays alone. Be grateful that you are not one of them. God has blessed you with many gifts, including family, food, and shelter. Offer up your sacrifices for those who lack these basic gifts. Praise God for His goodness.
At the root of most of these tips is the virtue of humility. When we begin to practice humility, we will find that all of our relationships grow. Truly, taking on the humble heart of Christ will be a great witness to our families. Strive to live in a way that points others to heaven. Our prayers are with you and your families during this Thanksgiving and Christmas season.
*Catholic-Link gives you permission to print and post these tips at your family celebration! 😉
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