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How to Cope with Difficult Families During Holidays

Here’s how to survive the holidays with difficult family members! It can be hard to host family or visit family over Christmas, Thanksgiving, and New Year’s.

Holidays can bring up a lot of stress even when we have a good relationship with our family members. Here are a few ways to ensure you stay emotionally well during family visits.

A family celebrating around a Christmas tree.

Make a plan in advance

Set expectations for yourself in advance and be clear on what you need to handle the situation.

Plan the number of days you think you’ll be able to handle the situation, find out who’s coming to the events, and go into the events with a plan of how you want to respond to the difficult people.

Be true yourself

If something isn’t right for you – don’t participate or engage with it. Don’t do things because you’re worried about who you’ll disappoint.

If there’s a situation that is going to be too emotional or burdensome, don’t engage with it. You know what’s right for you – so hold onto that.

Use humor to lighten the situation

A little bit of humor can go a long way. Sometimes you need to rise above the situation and help everyone else put it in perspective with something funny.

Don’t rely on sarcasm – remind everyone of a funny childhood story and then let everyone else reminisce.

Don’t be afraid to speak up for yourself

If the situation calls for it, you might need to be brave and speak up for yourself.

If family members are being unreasonable, cruel, or demeaning – you need to let them know you won’t accept that kind of behavior. We teach others how to treat us.

Take some time out when necessary

Whether it’s going to bed early or taking a walk by yourself in the afternoon, having some alone time can really help.

Don’t disappear for hours, but no one should begrudge you a half hour or an hour to yourself.

Remember it’s time-limited

Find a quiet space, take a deep breath, and remind yourself it’s only a few days. You can do this!

Allow yourself some time to meditate, listen to some music you like, and chill out. Then give yourself a little pep talk.

Minimize the alcohol

Alcohol exacerbates situations. It can be tempting to overindulge when you’re feeling frustrated with your family, but drinking too much will only heighten your emotions.

Make a plan for what you can reasonably drink in advance and stick to it.


Dealing with family can be hard. But, dealing with family during the holidays can feel impossible. We hope you got a few ideas from our tried and true ways to get through the holidays with your emotions intact.

Allow yourself the space to do the things you need to do while and know your limits!