It seems that people are really stressing out about the holidays. Not just gift-giving stress and stuffing-making stress, but also the being-together-for-family-time thing. As a recovering perfectionist, I know full well the stress of having high expectations and then watching them all crumble around me as my family is so… so… HUMAN. Everyone has their own personality, speed of functioning, ideas of how things should go, and attitude. It is this uniqueness of each human that makes life so interesting and yet everything I am trying to create so very complicated. Do I sound jaded?

Let me swing the pendulum the other way. Some of my most favorite moments have been over holidays! I remember making pies with my Grandma and learning to make deviled eggs from my mother-in-law. I remember playing Scrabble with my dad and wrapping presents with my mom. In a fast-paced world, I TREASURE the days with no appointments and no rush. When I see the blank calendar, my heart skips a beat in a fantastic way. We can have a slow morning, watch a parade on TV, eat a yummy meal when it is all ready, and take a walk and a nap later on. And there has been so much silliness! Between games and movies and jokes and memory sharing and catching up on life, I look forward to special holidays. 

We are in the business of helping relationships. Since holidays inevitably involve others, I am eager to share with you 9 of the greatest tips to having a successful holiday with family.

  1. Take time to evaluate what matters most to you. Pray and process so you also know why it matters, and prioritize the most important values or goals.
  2. Communicate with the people you care about – share with them what matters to you most. Don’t assume they should know already or they remember from last year.
  3. Listen to others share what matters to them most. Listen without distraction or defensiveness. Listen like what they say will determine how the holidays roll. 
  4. Adjust your expectations. Acknowledge the limited time, limited money, limit of humanness, and let go of unrealistic hopes. 
  5. Identify your triggers. Become aware of the things others say or do that really set you off. Sometimes these triggers say more about us than them, and explosions can be held at bay when you know how it works. 
  6. Prepare to take a time out. If things become heated, prepare to step away for a few minutes to cool down. Even if you are not worked up but another person is, it can be good to step away and breathe, pray, and process on your own.
  7. Set boundaries. If there are people you shouldn’t see this holiday or people you should limit your time with, be free to do so. You are also in control of how much you say, how transparent you are about your life, and to what extent you open yourself up. 
  8. Forgive. If someone has hurt you, talk with God and choose to forgive them for the ways they hurt you. You don’t need to have them apologize to let go of the poison caused by unforgiveness. I am not saying you have to be fully reconciled with them and go back to what was, but forgiveness is critical. 
  9. Enjoy the present moment. There is so very much to be grateful for, and our families are part of who we are. However, you choose to spend your holiday, take time to give thanks and enjoy the moment you are in. Trust God in each hour and ask him to help you be present and grateful.

I recognize 9 tips won’t magically fix you or prepare you completely for upcoming family drama. We welcome you to check out our relationship building video course Surviving Holiday Drama for a step-by-step process to help you prepare for a successful family gathering. Here’s to making the most of these precious holidays!

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