Family, Politics and the Holidays: 6 Tips to Avoid Family Stress and Enjoy the Holiday Season

Family, Politics and the Holidays: 6 Tips to Avoid Family Stress and Enjoy the Holiday Season

The Holidays are here again, and this time of year often brings on a large variety of emotions. While it might be exciting to see family you don’t see often, it may also cause stress and anxiety. However, you’re probably still wishing for a holiday season filled with love, joy, and peace, creating memories filled with old and new traditions. Why is that so elusive for so many?

The Holiday Season is generally busy, full of once-a-year events, activities, travel, and get-togethers with friends, neighbors, colleagues, and family. While being busy with a full calendar of needs, wants, and obligations may bring out the best in some, it can bring out the worst in others. For example, that person at the party that quickly divides the room by bringing up a highly debated and heated topic, such as current political issues! You may even call that person who turns the conversation from positive to negative the F word? You know, the one, FAMILY.

If this is your story, then you’re not alone. Family relationships are becoming casualties of a toxic political environment where family members experience uncomfortable and nasty political arguments or avoid one another at the same gathering. Some family members are even cutting off lifetime relationships.

As a therapist, I often start with a client’s family history to identify patterns, understand the family dynamics, and help them learn how to best manage. Behavioral patterns can become programmed in babies, and traits can be unconsciously carried on for decades, if not lifetimes. You might see this repeat within family generations in areas of addiction, affairs, or strife between siblings. Less desirable than the silver tea set handed down from generation to generation. So, understanding how family dynamics develop and repeat in the family tree is essential.

While children have little to no perspective about what’s occurring in their family, it still impacts them significantly. Kids aren’t able to understand the magnitude of what’s happening within their family due to a lack of perspective and a developing brain, and they aren’t equipped to understand healthy vs. unhealthy family dynamics. Kids are doing their best with what they’re given, and those family dynamics become imprinted in their brains. That family pattern is often unconsciously repeated as adults in their lives and with their own families.

So, fast forward 20 years, and you’ve gathered for the Holiday celebration in a cozy house, and it’s irrelevant what your life is like outside. History comes back, and fast! Suddenly, all your accomplishments, professional growth, and life experiences are no longer a reality. Because you quickly dive back into those old familiar patterns and find yourself again in those shoes of a five or 10-year-old. All the while, you don’t realize it’s even happening. Whether it’s sibling rivalry of who mom loved the most, political divide with red vs. blue party lines, or even good old family dysfunction, you arrive at the Holiday dinner table with armor in anticipation of the family drama.

So, if you desire peace with family traditions and healthy family bonds, preparation before seeing your family is necessary for how you show up and your role in family interactions. These six steps will help you avoid reaching for the old shields from the ages of five or ten.