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Family Stress At The Holidays – Part One

Before long, families will begin getting together for Christmas gatherings.  Jewish families have already begun celebrating Hanukkah.  And most people don’t have a family that could step into a Normal Rockwell painting.

The issues can range from awkward to awful.  No matter where you are on that scale, I want to help you navigate through your holiday family time with more joy and less stress.

Families Are Collections of People

Families are really collections of very different people.  Traditions and bloodlines may connect them, but there can be a lot of variety among the individual personalities.  You may have never chosen your brother as a friend if he wasn’t related to you.  Or if your uncle hadn’t married your mom’s sister, you’d have nothing to do with him.  But here you are – a hodgepodge of personalities, interests, and an inescapable connection.  How can you make this work?

Some have no idea how they behave or how it could be annoying.  Some do what they do because of insecurities, often knowing pretty well how things will go down.  It’s helpful to know which type of person you are dealing with.  If your annoying family member is just different from you (louder, more sensitive, more into cars) and doesn’t seem to be manipulative, then things may go better.  You may just need to take that family member in small doses throughout your time together.

The Big Players In The Family Game

It’s the passive aggressive one, the bully-loudmouth, or the emotional martyr you really have to plan for.  Those kinds of personalities thrive on people who are unprepared.  The passive aggressive one can catch you in a “gotcha” after an innocent sounding conversation.

The bully-loudmouth can spoil an otherwise good time with their dominance.  The emotional martyr can plant seeds of guilt that will grow full-size in a matter of moments.  That’s who you have to be ready for.

Unpleasant Family Moments – Finding Your Way Out

If you have people like that in your family, it might help you to prepare a few exit strategies, distractions, or canned phrases to get you or another family member out of their pinch.  Tomorrow I’ll go over some real strategies that can help you get through these situations with a smile on your face (even if it’s fake).

Creative Commons License photo credit: BlTZy

Family Stress At The Holidays – Part One

Erika Krull, MS, LMHP

Erika Krull, MS, LMHP is a practicing licensed mental health counselor in Nebraska.

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APA Reference
Krull, E. (2011). Family Stress At The Holidays – Part One. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 20, 2020, from


Last updated: 24 Nov 2011
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