Holidays can be an emotional powder keg when the family gets together and all the dysfunction you thought you left behind creeps back into your life, but returning home isn’t the time to exorcise your inner demons. Here are some tips to help you to be more comfortable with the contortions of family drama:
1) Be discrete. Don’t give out too much information that you will later regret: not having seen you for a while, your family will be curious about your life. Provide enough detail to satisfy without offering intriguing lines of inquiry—about your sex life, for instance.
2) Don’t drink too much. See above. Not only will you feel terrible the next day but you might say things you’ll regret. Having a large glass of water between drinks may help.
3) Don’t try to even up the score. This is a lousy time to seek revenge or get back at family members for past indiscretions. Doing so is liable to open a whole new can of worms and have unpredictable results.
4) Be curious. This is a good tactic to deflect attention from you: asking talkative family members about themselves will keep the focus off you. After all, you aren’t the only one who has changed.
5) Don’t take the bait. Petty arguments often arise when there is a lot of stress and many people in the room. Avoid taking sides or taking the bait when the bickering starts.
6) Avoid boredom. Being back at home for long stretches of time can be dull. Plan activities with friends or family members outside of the house, as this time can be a great opportunity to connect one-on-one.
7) Check your expectations at the door. You may be dreading going home or you might even feel full of joy, but either way, you are bound to be disappointed. Keep an open mind and be with what is—just expect that things will be different from what you anticipated.
8) Find support. As supportive as your family might be, we still need a reality check once in a while. Have friends or family members on hand whom you can trust with your feelings to give you feedback and support. This might be through chat, via phone or in person. Introverts could spend time alone and journal if necessary.
9) Take a break. Be good to yourself. Find time for activities you know you will enjoy like meditating, reading, listening to music, going for walks or exercising. Being back home can produce intense emotions, so give yourself time to work through them and replenishing your spirit. It will also give family members space.
10) Don’t take offense. You’ve been away and things have changed. You might be feeling left out or out of step with those around you, but remember that it’s not all about you—after all, you are the one who left. You want to be treated as an adult, so don’t expect the holiday to be the same as it was when you were ten.
Featured photo credit: Christmas Light display via Shutterstock