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The holidays are a time when many families gather to celebrate and enjoy each other’s company. But even for the most loving families, all that togetherness can lead to holiday stress and conflict. Suddenly, your “perfect” holiday is teetering on the edge of a dysfunctional family gathering, again.
Although every family has its unique dynamics and challenges, there are some common issues that can lead to holiday stress. Communication is the key to help deflect the typical problems that arise during the holidays. Also, take a look at these 6 holiday stressors, and their respective solutions, according to this article via Everyday Health.
Holiday Stressor No. 1: Unresolved Issues
It is no surprise that the holidays are particularly ripe for stress when you bring families together with historical unresolved baggage, according to the article. To create a more peaceful holiday, the article suggests sowing the seeds of good feelings long before the event. Reconnecting before the holiday with e-mails or letters can break the ice with a person with whom you’ve had a strained relationship in the past.
Holiday Stressor No. 2: Family Disagreements
Political or religious disagreements or other hot topics are also common sources of holiday stress. In advance of the gathering, agree that certain subjects are off limits, but if a banned subject comes up, inject some humor, and keep the conversation upbeat.
Holiday Stressor No. 3: The Dinner and Gift Exchange
Exchanging gifts may be part of the holidays, but this tradition can represent another source of holiday stress. By having everyone draw names out of a hat and then buy a gift for just that one family member can help keep costs down.
Apart from gift giving, the person hosting the family gathering may also feel stressed about the responsibility of pulling the whole event together. Often times, this person feels pressured to please everyone so delegate accordingly with the proclamation, “Everyone — I mean everyone — [should] help with setting the table, cutting veggies, and so on.”
Holiday Stressor No. 4: Outdated Rituals
Just because your family has “always done it that way” doesn’t mean traditions and rituals can’t be changed when they no longer make sense. Perhaps everyone always gathers at Aunt Lucy’s for Thanksgiving, but her place is now too small to comfortably accommodate new spouses and babies. Discuss the situation with the rest of the family before the holiday and come up with a solution, by using Lucy’s prized china or silverware.
Holiday Stressor No. 5: Absent Family Members
Keep in mind that the holidays can intensify feelings of loss. Family members might not be able to attend because of illness, service in the military, financial hardship, or other reasons. Acknowledge their absence by including them by setting a place for them at the table and use technology like Skype to get in touch, or write a group e-mail or letter.
Holiday Stressor No. 6: Being Single
If you’ve never been married or are newly divorced, you could feel out of place or particularly alone at a big family gathering. Find common ground with your married counterparts and talking about the here and now, not the past.