Try to plan your interactions or the time you spend with family in such a way that you can take “breaks” from emotional intensity. This can include limiting or structuring the time you spend together, planning for short periods apart (ie, going for a walk), suggesting that you need a few minutes to clear your head, or keeping some things routine. Long periods of unstructured time can invite boredom or agitation.
Consider: “My family member is doing the best they can right now.” Instead of thinking “Seriously? That’s all they can DO?” Think of them as limited, finite human beings. Instead of doing this in a condescending way, try a stance of gentle acceptance. We are all bound to be disappointed in people we care about and sometimes it is just hard to deal with.
Appreciations: Try focusing on one thing about each family member that you like, respect, honor, or value. Make it a point to tell this to each family member. Sometimes when people hear what they are doing well they are less likely to generate conflict
If you exit, do it with grace. Don’t add insult to injury, make things worse, or behave in a way in which you would lose your own self-respect. If you can’t do anything to make it better, don’t rub salt in old wounds. Try to plan ahead how you would cope adaptively if the “worst case scenario” were to happen.
If you are a person who focuses on controlling everything, pick one thing ahead of time that you are not going to try to control. Practice letting go, accepting what is, and acknowledging it openly. No critical comments allowed.
If loss is a theme for you this holiday, do something special to honor the person in your life who is missing. Talking about what this person meant to you, how much you cared for him/her, or how you spent time together might help. Sometimes family members need to be invited to honor their sadness because they are so busy avoiding it. If no one is there to honor your own sadness with you, see if you can find a way to honor sadness within yourself.
Ways of being together as a family: Topics for everyone to share: Talk about a highlight of the week, a favored memory of a family event, a recent accomplishment, something they did this year to increase their quality of life, what each of you wants 5 years from now, or wishes that each family member has for each other.