Tips and Tricks for Dealing with a Complicated Family this Christmas

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Christmas is often tagged as the “Happiest Time of the Year,” but for some, that simply isn’t the case.

Navigating Christmas in the midst of a toxic or volatile family dynamic can be extremely difficult.

When family isn’t a source of comfort and joy during the holiday season, Christmas quickly goes from a time of love to a time of isolation, fear and discomfort.

What’s worse is the triggering feeling of seeing close friends or a significant other are all happily spending time with their families, it might seem like it’s you against the world.

During these times, it’s important to remember that there are plenty of people who are dreading the holiday season, too.

Here are some tips and tricks for surviving this year’s Christmas dinner relatively unscathed.

A man sits alone watching people around him. Source: Unsplash.
Christmas can be an isolating time of year if you have a strained relationship with your family.

Know Your Boundaries

A toxic person can appear to have no sense of boundaries.

They’re the centre of their own Universe, and everything and everyone revolves around them.

Toxic and narcissistic family members may even take these behaviours to new extremes by demanding to know all the intricate details of everyone’s life.

From this comes a world of judgement, bringing up uncomfortable memories or past mistakes, comparisons, all under the guide that that’s their prerogative because “they’re family.”

The truth is, all people should be respectful of each other’s boundaries, family or otherwise.

If they aren’t, then it’s important to know where and when to draw the line.

According to Dr Sharon Martin, clearly communicating boundaries is key to navigating a toxic of invasive family member.

If a topic is approached that makes one person uncomfortable, a handy phrase to avoid escalation could be, “This isn’t a topic I want to talk about right now. Can we please change the subject?”

Remember to remain calm, resist the urge to overexplain, blame others or become defensive, and most importantly, expect pushback.

Toxic or narcissistic family members tend to believe they are entitled to know about everyone’s lives, so remain firm and remind them that this topic is off-limits.

If boundaries are being continually disrespected, then respectfully removing oneself from the situation, such as swapping tables or even leaving before dessert, could be great options if feeling overwhelmed.

Limit Your Contact and Practise Detachment  

As Dr Martin explains, individuals can shift away from toxic and controlling people by practising loving detachment.

This comes in a variety of different forms.

One can detach themself physically by exiting the situation entirely or spending less time with the toxic individual.

Emotionally, one can detach themselves by responding nonchalantly to comments and resisting the urge to give the toxic individual advice or comfort if they are seeking it.

If it gets too much, it is okay to respectfully decline spending Christmas with the family all together.

A cat on a couch sits and stares up at a Christmas tree. Source: Unsplash.
Sometimes your cat is the best Christmas companion.

According to Psychology Today, no one should feel obligated to accept an invitation if it puts them in a potentially harmful (psychologically or physically) situation during the holidays.

Christmas may often be seen as “family time,” but the reality is that it is also time for yourself to rest, to recuperate, and to prepare for the year ahead.

Coming from a toxic familial situation can make it difficult to accept that this time of year is supposed to be joyful, but it should be known that there are ways to make this happen.

Consider asking a friend or your significant other to spend Christmas with them and their family instead.

It might be hard, and it might lead to some temporary feuding, but standing up for oneself and choosing to decline Christmas with a complicated family will communicate that toxic behaviour will no longer be tolerated.

After all, everyone deserves a Merry Christmas.

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Sydney Earnshaw

CONTRIBUTOR

Sydney is an avid reader and writer with a passion for fashion, health and beauty. When summer hits, you'll likely find her diving in the ocean's deep depths, reading Classics in the shade or snapping nature shots with her camera. Her favourite hobbies include changing her hair every two to three months (it may be becoming a problem), going to the pub with friends and keeping up-to-date with the newest arthouse or foreign films.

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