Holiday stress isn’t limited to shopping lists or travel plans. This time of year can stretch family relationships to an extreme, and extended families are especially vulnerable. Charlie Simpson, with Arkansas Relationship Counseling Center explains ways to manage the extra holiday stress with an extended family.
Why are the holidays such a flash point for extended families?
Very often, we have expectations when it comes to family and the holidays tend to magnify those expectations. So there’s pressure to begin with. When extended family comes into the picture, they may have different ideas, plans and needs. If those needs aren’t met or those plans aren’t fulfilled, people become agitated and things can reach a boiling point quickly.
What are some ways to lessen the stress?
Managing the expectations and the conflicts arising from them in a positive way can be very effective. You can make new holiday traditions. For example, your family can gather and put together food, clothing or toy baskets for families in need. Focusing on helping others often brings families closer together, which helps alleviate stress in family relationships.
It helps to keep in mind that the way people react to you or your immediate family isn’t within your power. If you do something that’s unpopular with people in your extended family—say, you want to have more time with your immediate family and choose not to attend a dinner or other event—your actions and your response to others’ actions are the only things you control. You have absolutely no control over the way they feel or react.
It sounds like you’re saying that “perfect holidays” don’t exist.
Perfection isn’t realistic. And you probably won’t totally insulate yourself from every stressful circumstance. Just keep in mind that this time of year should be joyful, and that sometimes joy comes in new or different situations and traditions—with or without the approval of others.