How to deal with a dysfunctional family this festive season

PHOTO: Gallo images/ Getty images
PHOTO: Gallo images/ Getty images

Right now, many are counting down to their trips home for the holidays. It’s the time where we all get to see our families. But as much as this time of the year could be special, it’s also the time where we have to deal with that one individual in the family who is irritating, inconvenient, doesn’t want to contribute towards anything and wants to be the centre of attention. If this sounds familiar, we’ve compiled a few survival tips to get you through the holidays. 

1. Accept that it may suck, and focus on just getting through it

Some would get hopeful about their family’s behaviour when they plan their trip home. But lowering your expectations can help you deal with the heartbreak that comes with being in the company of your toxic family. This will help you to not feel let down when you get home and realise nothing has changed, writes author Martha Beck in O Magazine. 

2. Form an alliance with those you like

When you get home and realise nothing has changed, you already know the annoying types and troublemakers. Form alliances with those you like and stay clear of the dysfunctional ones. Don’t get involved in any arguments. Keep busy in the kitchen or with the kids. Use laughter and humour to take off the pressure.

3. Set boundaries

We all have that one aunt or uncle who keeps poking fun at people with his silly jokes; asking you when you are getting married, when are you having kids or telling you you’re such a failure and comparing you to his or her successful daughter or son. You can set boundaries as to what you will and won’t tolerate.

But sometimes you don’t have to deal with such people, choose one of these coping strategies to deal with anger: excuse yourself, take a walk, go to the bathroom, remind yourself to stay in the here and now, call a friend or leave at a set time.

4. Set time limits

If dinner starts at 6pm, start at 6pm and let everyone know that if they are late, dinner starts without them. The emotionally unstable personality is famous for being late to make dramatic entrances, be the focus of attention and to demonstrate dominance or control. Don’t provide that opportunity.

5. Avoid behaviours that are dangerous 

During holidays some folks in the family will drink until they forget who they are, be disruptive and try by all means to antagonise or irritate others. If it’s your house, you set the rules but if it is someone else’s house, you don’t have to be a party to hostility. If things get out of hand, especially where alcohol or weapons are involved, don’t hesitate to call the police. Just because you are family doesn’t mean you are safe. We are only safe when we avoid or control those individuals or situations that would do us harm. In order words, stay alarmed. 

6. Have an exit strategy

If you are one of those who has an extremely unbearable family, have an exit plan. Plan some time off from your exhausting family and connect with your high school friends by going for a night out or sleep over at hometown friends who will let you spend the night on their couch. Maybe, just take a bus back to your normal life. In everything you do, don’t let family members ruin your holiday festivities.

Sources: Psychology Today, Bustle, Relevant Magazine, Self-growth 

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