Almost everyone has a rotten branch on their family tree. We all have toxic family members we’d rather avoid. Since we can’t outright ban them from Christmas, let’s discuss steps you can take to ensure they don’t ruin the holidays.
How to Plan for Toxic Family Members
Preparing some strategies will go miles towards keeping you sane. This can involve mental preparation or talking strategy with those on your side. Try these ideas:
Don’t be afraid of seeming strict with toxic family members. If you’re hosting, make rules, tell your guests in advance, and enforce them. If your family gets heated over politics, ban political discussion. When you have an Uncle who drinks too much, limit everyone to one alcoholic beverage at dinner. When you set dinner to start at 6pm, tell everyone you’ll start without them if they’re late.
If another relative is hosting the holiday, have escape plans ready (both figurative and literal ones). Bring a pair of headphones or a good book to drown out arguing. Consider where you can stay if things get too heated.
Most important: make time to take care of yourself. Retire early if you must.
Book a hotel room instead of staying with your host. Rent a car instead of having someone pick you up. Find ways to gain more control so you don’t feel trapped.
What to Do About Toxic Family Members
There’s many ways to keep the toxicity at bay in the moment. If things start to get heated, use some of these strategies to cool them off.
Suggest watching a movie or playing a party game to keep your relatives focused on something other than whatever drama they intend to stir up.
Keep Conversation Light
If you know a certain subject is going to stir things up, avoid it. Try to avoid discussing religious or political differences, money, or those not present. Instead, discuss your new favorite movie, the cute thing your pet did, or that funny anecdote from work.
Mindsets to Take
The most effective way to keep things light is to keep the moment in perspective.
Don’t tell yourself everything will be hunky-dory if you know your cousin will stir the pot. Do what you can to keep the mood light, but be aware he might cause problems.
Don’t Get Caught Off-Guard
Toxic people employ the same strategies over and over again. Keep this in mind and it won’t hit so hard when Aunt Brenda makes passive-aggressive comments about your outfit.
No family is perfect, but some cause more problems than others. We all can stand to learn something about dealing with toxic relatives. Keep these ideas in mind, and you’ll survive the holidays without major upset.