For some, getting through the stress of the holidays means trying to avoid the traditional family fight at Thanksgiving or Christmas. I remember my grandfather drinking too much, getting mad at my mom, she ends up crying, and him leaving early huffing and puffing out the door. So much for a Happy Thanksgiving or a Merry Christmas!
As a mediator, I find avoiding family fights one of the top priorities for many during the holiday season. Here are a few of the common fights:
- The In-Law Fight. Marriage does instantly create family. Parents never accepted the partner of the child. Children never accepted the new partner of a parent.
- The Alcohol Induced Fight. Give anyone too much liquor and just watch the fireworks.
- The Religion and Politics Fight. There is a reason why people stay away from these topics, especially after some alcohol.
- The “You Never Amounted to Nothing” Diatribe. This is more of a rant than a fight. The result is just the same; victims and blood everywhere. Alcohol always helps this one get started.
- Last, but least, the “Why Can’t You be Like the Others” Fight. This fight ofter originates with parents focused on the misfit child. The whole family would be better if the misfit would just learn to conform or “get along.”
Now that I have described some of my favorite holiday family fights, what can you do about them? Here are a few strategies. If you are hosting the holiday gathering, you can make some ground rules. How about limiting the amount of alcohol consumption for a start? Or, certain subjects or people are off limits for conversation. In order to keep things more positive, how about digging out some old family photos or movies. Many families have a great time reflecting on past events. You could even ask each family to bring one of their favorite photos and explain why they selected it. The point? If you are the host, you control the environment. You get a chance to possibly start some new traditions.
Now, if you are not hosting and attending the gathering at another family members home, here are some pointers. Think about how to excuse yourselves if the family starts down the fight trail. You can even have an agreed upon word or sentence that signals your spouse or family – time to leave. If you are ready to confront some difficult family behavior, schedule a pre-holiday conversation to discuss the issue. “I will not let you treat my spouse (or child) that way. If we come, and you raise certain topics or behave poorly, we will leave. We would like to stay and enjoy the day. However, I will not subject my spouse (or child) to the abuse.” Think about your words. Try to describe the situation accurately without using inflammatory descriptors. Many spouses and children do not feel safe at holiday gatherings. Thus, they would rather stay home.
I hope this holiday brings you and your family peace, joy, love and hope.