Family

Visiting family over the holidays? Five tips for keeping the peace

By: Samantha Grenrock, grenrosa@ufl.edu

Source: Heidi Radunovich hliss@ufl.edu

With the election behind us and the holidays ahead, many are probably wondering how to avert conflicts at upcoming family gatherings — events that are often already a source of stress, no matter the year, says a human development expert with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
“The increase in togetherness with family members during the holidays can be wonderful, but being with people you don’t normally see for extended periods of time can only increase the likelihood of clashes,” said Heidi Radunovich, associate professor of family, youth and community sciences and UF/IFAS Extension program director for UF Engagement.
For those apprehensive about spending the holidays with family, Radunovich has these tips for making the visit go more smoothly:
1. Agree to take hot button issues — political or otherwise — off the table. “Just because you are related doesn’t mean you share the same world view. While these differences can be ignored most of the time, prolonged periods in close quarters mean different opinions will eventually get voiced,” Radunovich said.
“If there are hot button issues family members know exist, and people simply can’t see eye to eye on them, it can be helpful to set ground rules and agree that those topics won’t be brought up,” she said. “Keep in mind that you can love someone even if you don’t like their views on particular topics.”
2. Make plans as a group and consider individual needs. “Deciding where and how to spend the holidays can set off arguments and lead to hurt feelings,” Radunovich said. “Make sure that people are part of the planning and agree to how things will go.” Topics to discuss ahead of time may include food preparation, travel plans and how you will handle family traditions, she said.
3. Don’t feel the need to do everything as a group. “Expecting everyone to be together all the time can be stressful for all involved, so allowing opportunities for the group to break off to do separate activities can help,” Radunovich said. “For example, set aside activities for children that can allow grown-ups the option of watching sports, reading a book or doing something else on their own.”
4. If conflicts do arise, stay calm. “It’s a lot easier to have a productive discussion if everyone is calm. If you or other family members get into a fight, do what you can to keep or regain everyone’s composure before moving forward,” said Radunovich.
“Regaining composure may mean removing yourself from the situation for a while. You can try leaving the room, going for a walk, listening to music or engaging in some other soothing activity,” she said. “When you come back, it will be easier to see one another’s points of view, and come up with creative solutions and compromises.”
5. Don’t expect perfection. “We can put pressure on ourselves to make the holidays perfect. When our unrealistic expectations don’t come true, this can lead to stress and frustration,” Radunovich said. “There are already a lot of stressors associated with the holidays that can tap out our resources for coping, making it harder to deal with even minor stressors. Keep in mind that the goal is to enjoy your time together, and avoid trying to cram in too many events, or making every meal or event perfect.”

 

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