How to Survive the Holidays with family

Nov 13, 2014 | Family Counseling, Relationships



(without strangling your relatives)

While parts of us become filled with the bliss of decorating, gift giving and seeing the joy on other’s faces, the other part of us begins to break down in a panic stricken sweat while trying to figure out excuses as to how we can avoid going to Uncle Rob & Aunt Carry’s house for holiday wassail and baby Jesus shaped gingerbread cookies. Alas, we soon realize that avoiding such interactions with family will not work and seeing family during the holidays is unavoidable.


  1. Move to another country. Not an option? …then keep reading.
  2. Give up the hope that our family might have learned some manners over the past 52 weeks. You know what you are in for, so get prepared and remember your expectations for family gatherings.
  3. Start your day with exercise. Not only will this prevent us from overeating, but it will also release endorphins (the feel good chemical in our brain).
  4. Scope out a retreat spot when you first reach an event, a place where you can go (without looking odd) that will allow you a few minutes alone. Use this spot before you think you need it.
  5. Have a wingman & a safe word. “Mistletoe”. In the movie “4 Christmases” the main characters played by Vince Vaughn & Reese Witherspoon establish a word they will use when the holiday family gatherings become overwhelming. The movie is hilarious, but the takeaway is that the use of a safe word and a partner to help you escape can be very effective for the rest of us.
  6. Identify the troublemakers. You know who they are. Uncle Earl who has had too much eggnog or Aunt Betty who will eventually start talking about the time you drove the car through the garage doors when you were 15. It’s ok to minimize contact.
  7. Set an end time and stick to it.
  8. Keep your own boundaries. Take a quick inventory of your hot buttons and what topics to avoid.
  9. Avoid alcohol before & during. Having a drink might help you relax, but too much relaxing may result in you saying something that might cross the boundaries you already established in step #8.
  10. Stop trying to persuade others and respect differences. If your family tries to push their values and beliefs down your throat, it is not right for us to do the same to them. It’s okay to stick to your guns, but don’t expect others to abandon their values and beliefs just because you disagree with them.


Finally, recognize that you are far more likely to get into arguments and to behave in ways you might later regret; so when you are considering holidays with family —even if that means limiting your time at a family event, or skipping it, and seeing individual family members separately—you are not diminishing family bonds, you are actually protecting them. This takes confidence, but is a valuable tool when all else fails.

Pace Counseling Group is a professional counseling firm located in San Antonio, Texas. We are focused on continuously improving the quality of life for our clients and their families. We are currently accepting new clients with no wait list.  Insurances accepted. Make your first appointment online by clicking here. 

To learn more, visit us at Pace Counseling Group or call (210) 481-3727.


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