4 Tips to Keep Your Christmas Cheer (or, how to deal with difficult family members)

4 Tips to Keep Your Christmas Cheer Dagmar Bryant

4 Tips to Keep Your Christmas Cheer (or, how to deal with difficult family members)


Christmas, like many significant other get-together holidays is not always a time of cheer. It’s when we invariably have to play nice with that one family member (or friend of the family) who is a right royal pain in the behind.

Whether it’s that they rant, rave, are too loud, abusive, obnoxious, derogatory, they drink too much or eat too much, or any combination of the above, they are the person that we want to spend the least amount of time with.

So, what do you do? How do you deal with difficult family members? Your preference is probably to avoid them altogether, but at this late stage, that’s most likely not going to be an option.

Maybe, this year, it’s time to take a different approach.

1. Look at them in a different light.

Is there something about this person that is a positive? If you don’t know them very well, can you find out? After all, while you may not get along with this person, somebody is bound to love and care for them. What are their good traits?

By looking at them in a different light, you may find that there is something that you can relate to with this person. I’m not saying forgive and forget, especially if they’ve been personally very negative towards you, but at least it might make the few hours that you need to spend with them more bearable.

2. Don’t take it personally.

This one can be challenging, especially for us sensitive types. Do you feel that they are being particularly awful to you? Or, is this person an equal opportunity jerk? How do they behave to other people? Take a step back and observe their behavior. You may find that there is more going on than meets the eye.

There could be issues going on here that are way deeper than a few snide remarks. Have you considered that maybe they are jealous or envious of you? Is it that you are leading the life that they can only dream of? Do they have money worries? Are they a closet gambler or alcoholic?

While none of these things excuse their behavior, it might help you not take it so personally.

3. The grateful exercise.

Take a moment to be grateful for all your blessings. Christmas (and other get-togethers) don’t happen every day. If you find yourself struggling, say to yourself, “I am so grateful that I only have to spend a few hours with this person.” Or try this. “I am grateful that I get to spend some wonderful time with my family. XXX is not important to me; they and/or their behavior is not a reflection of me.”

Do this when you have to spend time with that difficult person or when you feel that they are pushing your buttons. Focus on the good people that you have around you. Put emphasis on the positives as much as possible and at the same time put the difficult person into the background.

4. Take time out/step away

In every family situation, you should be able to take time out or step away. Most times, there is more than one room in the house, or even space outside. When a person is pushing your buttons, take that time to walk away. Reacting and blurting out angry words doesn’t help the situation. It may make you feel better but in the long run, it doesn’t help the overall circumstances.

Is this person grand standing or do they just want to be the center of attention? Don’t give them the ammunition.

Whatever you are doing, do it differently. Sometimes a person wants to see that they are getting under your skin. Don’t give them the satisfaction.

What is the lesson in this situation? Why is this coming up? We all have a contribution to each situation, and sometimes it is enough to show us that this is exactly what we don’t want to be or become. Is there an aspect of this person that is a reflection of yourself? (I know that may be difficult to accept, but is it?)

Again, this is not excusing their behavior, but it is a way of keeping your sanity. Step away and go for a walk. Take some deep breaths and look at all the good things about yourself that this person wants to take from you. Have confidence. Believe in yourself.

Longer term, you may need to look at other solutions. But for now, take a deep breath and next year, say to yourself, “I’ll be away in the Caribbean (or your destination spot of choice). Happy Holidays!


I hope these 4 Tips to keep your Christmas Cheer have helped.

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