While the holidays are a great time to reconnect with our families and our loved ones, they can also come with an excess of stress and conflict. We love our family members, but that doesn't mean that we always see eye-to-eye with them. For some, that’s a problem when it comes to sharing close quarters at. Christmas. If we want to get along better with our families this year, then we have to commit to dropping the drama and getting along with compassion and understanding.
Every family is a blend of different personalities.
The family unit is a complex and dynamic gathering of people and minds. No two families are the same, and no two family members are quite as similar as they may first appear. A lot of different personalities go into making up these groups, and a lot of different variables go on to shape and reshape us over time. It is these differences that cause us to clash, but it is also these differences which can bond us in strength and compassion.
Do you and your family spend a lot of time bickering every time you get together on the holidays? More often than not, these irritations are created by unaddressed feelings, a lack of understanding, or an inability to see our differences as beautiful shifts in nature. Only by getting down to the root of your arguments can you resolve them and find better ways to connect.
Find a way to put all the arguing and all the conflict to bed. This holiday season only comes once a year, and we should use it to value one another and appreciate the time we have to enjoy our relationships together. Life is chaotic, and it’s getting harder by the day. Our families should be a beacon of love, support, and comfort in these times. Make that your reality by forming a mutual commitment to find peace together this year.
Why families argue at Christmas.
Believe it or not, there are a number of reasons behind our tendencies to argue with family at the holidays. From a struggle with differences, to passive aggressive behavior and hypercopresence — arguing with our families is rarely straightforward, but it is resolvable. The first step is acknowledging the problems and the causes behind them.
Concentrating on differences
Families are a strange mix of similarities and differences. We want our family members to be like us, and this can be especially true of the parent-child dynamic. When we see someone who looks like us, it makes our differences all that more apparent. Hyper-focusing on those differences, though, can cause divisions and irritations that lead to conflict between family members and throughout the unit as a whole. Focusing on all the ways we’ve changed is always a problem when we’re working toward compassion.
There can be no denying the power that passive-aggressive behavior has in creating family conflict. When one of you goes stomping around, making snide remarks, without voicing any of your actual issues — it creates an atmosphere of irritation and negativity that ripples through the entire unit. Rather than opting for this kind of immature behavior, we have to speak up when we have an issue, or put it to bed entirely and move on.
Resentment and rivalry
Is your family simmering with ignored resentments, rivalries, or unaddressed emotions that are eating you all alive? Parents who fail to put sibling rivalries to bed can find that their adult family holidays wind up being frosty and tense. Likewise, any family member who holds on to old hurts can find that they themselves create an atmosphere of tension and aggravation. We can’t ignore the issues that we have if they are truly that disruptive to our inner peace. We have to address them so we can get back to enjoying the holidays together.
Different states of belief
This year has been a turbulent one, and it’s one which has exposed in ways we’ve never experienced before. Personal beliefs became more important than ever in 2020, and they led to splinters in both our families and our closest friend groups. You and your family may be in conflict because you’ve realized you differ in opinion far too greatly to respect one another. If this is the case, you need to decide whether you can put things to bed enough to enjoy your company (or you need to make a new plan for the season).
Hypercopresence is, perhaps, the most common cause behind the conflict we experience with our families over the holidays. This is a condition which occurs when we find ourselves in close quarters and on top of one another too much. We get irritated because our autonomy gets taken away. Even if we’re not being bossy with one another, the tight schedules, family meals, game nights, and get-togethers can all take a toll. It feels like you’re never in control, and if you disrupt any of it, you can feel an extreme sense of guilt. It’s overwhelming.
The best ways to reduce family fighting at Christmas.
Don’t allow the arguments and the skirmishes to destroy your holiday together. Find better ways to connect with one another and look for better ways to resolve your irritations. Avoid adding fuel to the fire, consider it a short-term situation, and focus on creating happy memories together.
1. Don't add more irritation
The first thing we can do to minimize the arguments is to consciously avoid them. We know our family members better than anyone else. We know what makes our parents tick, and what makes them explode. We know exactly where that sweet spot is, which can make our siblings squirm. While this knowledge should be used to connect, it can also be used to irritate and expose. If we want a peaceful holiday experience, though, we have to avoid adding fuel to the fire.
Don’t walk into the door looking for a fight. Don’t start off your time together pointing out flaws or taking cheap shots at one another. Avoid needless conversation that you know will bring on a fight. Avoid words and deeds you know are irritating to one another or likely to start a conflict.
Being peaceful is not being fake. It’s being the bigger person and taking control of the environment around you by taking control of your own emotions. Don’t take teams and don’t give a parent, a cousin, or a sibling control by feeding into the bullying, the bossiness, and the goading. Stay focused on the beautiful positivity that you want the season to bring and do your part to create that consciously.
2. Consider it a short-term situation
When you’re feeling overwhelmed by all the physical proximity, it can make issues seem a lot bigger or more important than they are. Little snubs become major strikes against our character, and personalities begin to collide and irritate one another. In order to break ourselves out of this hyper-focus, we have to remember that the whole experience is a short-term situation. It’s not going to last forever. Eventually we’re going to go home and back to normal.
Instead of allowing yourself to get emotionally amped up, think of the whole experience like “work”. It’s simply something you have to get through with as little conflict as possible. Focusing on this impermanence is powerful and can supply us with an almost bottomless well of Zen.
You don’t have to put up with any annoying personalities forever. You’re not going to have to remain the butt of the jokes, or keep justifying yourself forever. The holidays will end and we will all go back to facing our own lives and the struggles therein. Look forward to the aspects of your life you can control. Keep an eye on those who annoy you and keep note. Remember what qualities and personalities you don’t want in your outside life. Take it as a learning experience.
3. Cool off before confrontation
Some confrontations are unavoidable — even during the holidays. Before we engage in them, though, we need to take a step back and take some time to process our thoughts and our feelings. Then, we have to consider what we truly hope to get out of the situation and consider whether it’s worth stirring up the drama and the chaos. This time can often help us to see that the drama isn’t worth the fallout and isn’t worth ruining a nice time together.
If you find yourself in a situation where you’re going to have to protect your boundaries or be more assertive, walk away first and give yourself time to process. Don’t explode or immediately react to someone else’s taunting. You have a right to walk away, collect your thoughts, and figure out exactly what you want to say.
Consider too the scope of the argument. If you’re going to engage in something with potential fallout, are you willing to deal with that fallout? Are you prepared for a family dinner to be ruined? Are you prepared to create superficial splits and divides which haunt all your holidays to come? Sometimes the conflict is worth it. Sometimes our egos lead us into confrontations that destroy things we really value. We’re the only ones who know where the lines lie.
4. Forgive one another for a change
Some families go into the holiday season already harboring hurts from years of aggravation and mistakes. It doesn’t make for A Very Brady Christmas, when you’re still stewing over apologies that weren’t given from the days and weeks before. In order to go into the holiday experience we have to give one another a chance to start over, and that requires forgiveness and a willingness to go on.
Use the goodwill of the season to your advantage. This is a time to come together and look back over a year that’s been challenging for everyone. It’s a time to look forward in hope at all the things we hope to change in our lives. Build on this hope. Move toward one another and see it as a chance to create a mutually clean slate.
Give yourselves hope for a better relationship. Let go of those things which are superficial or no longer meaningful. Address the things you can’t move past and make the decision to forgive. Our forgiveness is powerful and it can transform not only our holidays but also our relationships in general. Forgive yourself. Forgive your parents or your siblings. Forgive who you need to forgive in order to move on together.
5. Focus on the joyful moments
There are a lot of people out there who promise the secret to a happy family, but the secret really only comes down to one thing: creating more happy memories than miserable ones. This principle can also be applied to transforming our holidays together as a family. If we truly want to minimize all the fighting and the drama, then we should seek to have as much fun together as we can.
Leave the serious stuff out as much as possible. Christmas, while deep in some ways, is also a superficial and material time of the year. We’re meant to celebrate, enjoy ourselves, and see the year out with a thankful eye to the future (and a chance to start over). Don’t make your get-togethers about settling old wrongs when they don’t need to be.
You have a whole year ahead to address the big stuff that can’t be settled in a few family dinner chats. Keep things as light as a possible and put a lid on the things that can be prioritized later. You’re not burying your feelings away. You’re choosing to time your arguments for a more effective time and place in the future. That’s smart planning and a healthy way to confront issues with one another.
Putting it all together…
The holidays are a great time to reconnect with our families, but they can also be a stressful time. Some families fight a lot when they get together, but we can minimize this fighting by getting to the root of the problem and getting control of ourselves. When we’re more mindful of the arguing and the patterns behind those arguments, we can take action to minimize the drama and the irritation.
Avoid adding fuel to the fire. Don’t walk in the door with your battle armor on and don’t get the holidays started looking for a fight. Let things go. Set a mindset of peace and ignoring the small stuff when you can. Look at the situation as a whole. The holidays happen once a year, and they happen for a very short window of time. This irritation isn’t forever. Treat it like a work gig and get out as gracefully as you can. You won’t be able to avoid all the fights, though. When you do have to stand up to one another, take some time to cool first and gather your thoughts. Then approach one another as compassionate adults and try to find the middle ground. Focus on forgiveness and focus on creating more happy memories than turbulent ones. Little-by-little, you’ll be able to find some peace in the experience.
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