Before you know it the holiday season will be upon us and for some that means family conflict and lots of stress. Managing family relationships over the holidays can be incredibly stressful for many people. As a therapist in San Francisco I hear about these family conflict every year. For some the holidays are a lovely time of the year when family gets together to celebrate the season. For others it is a very stressful time of year and for others still it is avoided altogether.

Most people don’t have have completely stress free holidays with their families, there is always some conflict at most family gatherings, the key is to manage the stress and conflict as well as possible.

Managing Family Relationships Over the Holidays

So how do you go about managing family relationships over the holidays? Good question. There are three things you can do to deal with difficult family members and situations – resolve the conflict, avoid the conflict or avoid the family. Of course, every family is different and every conflict is unique, but there are some things you can do to prevent a complete meltdown at family gatherings.

Resolve the Conflict – If possible it is always best to resolve the conflict you have with a sibling, parent, or other family member. It’s not easy, it takes time and considerable effort and is not likely to happen during the gathering. Make an effort to resolve any conflict you might have with a family member before the actual holiday. Be warned however, there are some people who thrive on conflict and actually prefer it to getting along. Some conflict you won’t be able to resolve. If you can’t, that’s okay, at least you tried and can move on to the next suggestion.

Avoid Conflict – If you’ve made every attempt to resolve the conflict but it’s simply not possible, then consider avoiding the conflict. That can mean ignoring the person during the family gathering. This may seem rude but it might actually be the best way to manage the situation. If ignoring someone completely is difficult for you or it will cause stress for other family members acknowledge the other person with a polite “hello” and then move on to talk to other family members. You can also choose to interact with the other person and just pretend the conflict doesn’t exist. If you can do this, then by all means go for it. If you must interact with someone with whom you are in conflict remember to be polite. Try to avoid using alcohol in excess during family gatherings as that can make the conflict exponentially worse.

Avoid the Family – If you can’t resolve the conflict and you can’t avoid the conflict, it might be best to avoid the family this year. Sometimes it’s better to avoid the family than to participate knowing an issue will eventually turn into an all out war, or at the very least a tense time for everyone else at the gathering. If you know you are unable to let bygones be bygones, even for a few hours, it might be better to find other activities for the day.