How to navigate family tension during the Christmas season

When you go home in a few weeks, keep these tips in mind when your relatives ask about career goals, politics or dating.

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Here are some steps on how to avoid family tension during the Christmas season.

Adam Pigott, Freelance Writer

Right now, you’re most likely pushing through your eight-page paper or studying for a three-hour exam. But in a few weeks, you will be very happy to have those out of the way and finally go home. You and your family will be back together again once break begins, a fellowship that should be cherished during the Christmas season. 

However, the nature of living with family remains. This includes arguments, frustration and in some cases, animosity. Inevitably, conversations surrounding politics, future career goals or love interests will come up, but there are ways to decrease the chances of a battle with your family members.

WALKING AWAY

According to Leonard Felder, a Los Angeles-based psychologist, Americans feel serious tension at one or more family events each year. The finding was part of a nationwide study Felder carried out for his book, “When Difficult Relatives Happen to Good People.” The same research found that of the more than 1,350 people surveyed, 75% of them had at least one family member that seriously irritated them. 

One condition that can create disdain between family members is what some psychologists call hypercopresence. According to Melanie Booth-Butterfield, professor emerita of communication studies at West Virginia University, hypercopresence occurs when someone gets a “large dose of family at once.” 

If there is one thing that I have learned from my experience with disputes between siblings, it is that they can be endless if someone does not pull the plug on the argument. Having arguments and resolving them is a healthy part of any relationship, but the arguments need to come to an end eventually, and everyone needs their alone time. 

While it’s important to address conflicts, discussions about controversial topics can often become heated and stressful. It’s best to approach these conversations calmly—after all, whether or not your family member listens to your argument is ultimately up to them. Sometimes that means taking time for yourself before engaging with them. 

INITIATE PEACE

The ultimate step in resolving disputes is through initiating peace by offering kindness, rather than arguing, even if you disagree with a family member. This can be easier said than done at times, but that does not mean it is any less of a necessity. 

Setting peace in motion is an important step in becoming a more mature adult. This means regrouping with the other person after you have both cooled down. You should each calmly state what angered you, admit where you may have gone wrong and ask how you can be more considerate in future discussions. 

Both parties in an argument need to take responsibility for their contributions to the dispute. Sooner or later, everyone needs to learn how to get along with people they disagree with. Consider the holiday season as a training session for just that.

THE REMINDER

Tension may occur between family members during the holidays, but Christmas is a time to celebrate Christ coming into the world. That’s something worth cherishing with the people we love the most. 

While I completely understand that siblings, parents and other family members can get on your nerves, there are ways to avoid an all-out war between family, and we need to focus on what Christ has done for us. If we can keep this in mind, the Christmas season will be much more bearable and jolly.

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