The most (stressful) wonderful time of the year!

By Kendall Weber, B.S 

The most wonderful time of the year is almost upon us! With parties for hosting, marshmallows for toasting, and caroling out in the snow, the holidays can bring people together, but holiday cheer can’t always make them get along.

As much as we may love our friends and family members, we may at times find ourselves feeling tense, frustrated, irritable, or annoyed. As the holidays near, navigating family disagreements may feel like walking a tightrope, requiring delicate balance. Here are some helpful tips for navigating disagreements and making the most of your time with friends and family.

Keep calm and kind
Discussing sensitive topics with family members has the potential to escalate and become heated quickly. Entering these conversations with the intention to remain kind, open, and calm is important to maintaining a more positive dialogue. Communicate respectfully, avoiding extreme language that blames or attacks your family member. Using statements that start with “I” or “we” rather than “you” can help the conversation feel more collaborative and avoid your family member feeling attacked. Consider ways in which you might remain calm or ease the situation if conversations become hostile. Taking deep breaths, reminding yourself that you are talking to a family member you love and care about, gently redirecting the conversation, or even excusing yourself are strategies you can use to remain calm in these situations.

Find common ground
Actively listening to your loved one and working together help to identify common viewpoints or underlying values. Often, differing opinions about politics, health, or lifestyle may boil down to common values such as safety, independence, or community. Try focusing on finding this common ground, rather than working to change someone’s mind.

Know when it’s time to end the conversation
Disagreement is okay and arguably natural! Perfect agreement on every topic may not be a realistic goal at any family gathering. Although it may be difficult or even uncomfortable, the time may come when an unresolved conversation or disagreement should come to a peaceful end. It is important to know when a conversation is approaching a place where you are uncomfortable or may lead to unnecessary contention. Consider what these boundaries may look like for you and work with family members to establish goals of the conversation, safe topics of discussion, and ways to recognize when a conversation has run its course. Redirecting the conversation or engaging together in a new activity may allow for this type of peaceful end.

Enjoy time spent together
The holidays are an opportunity to bring families together, catch up with friends, and enjoy one another’s company. Although disagreements may arise, try to appreciate the time spent together, the good food, your health, or your holiday-cozy home. Reminiscing about old memories or planning a family game or other outing may serve to redirect and distract from difficult conversations and bring the family back to engaging in activities that you’ll enjoy and draw you closer together.

Although these tips may be useful in navigating sensitive or even volatile interactions with family members, it is still important to acknowledge and experience the feelings that may surface during the holidays. In the end, establishing expectations and boundaries around these conversations, length of time spent at family gatherings, etc., are important personal considerations. You know yourself and your family best. Seeking support during the holidays from a loved one, religious leader, or counselor can provide the outlet you may need. If you find yourself needing further support throughout this holiday season, contact the UCCS Aging Center at 719-255-8002.

Kendall Weber, B.S., is a UCCS clinical psychology master’s student and psychology trainee at the UCCS Aging Center.  For more information, contact her at kweber2@uccs.edu or call the Aging Center at 719-255-8002.

 

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