Tips to Ease Family Conflict During the Holidays

by Laurie Whitehead, Registered Mediator

As we enter in to the holiday season, we are more often surrounded by family which can certainly lead to stress and conflict. Your perfect holiday celebration may be teetering on dysfunction and feud. A few simple tips may help to avoid some of those stressful situations which will lead to a more peaceful holiday for you and yours.

1. Attempt to make peace with any unresolved conflict well in advance of the holidays.  Don't wait until you gather at a holiday dinner to make peace with a mother-in-law you haven't spoken to in two years.  Attempt to reconnect with her well in advance by letter, email or in person so that the tension won't be high at a holiday gathering.  Making that effort to make amends will certainly make your gathering less awkward for everyone and allow both of you to, hopefully, put the conflict behind you.
2. Avoid discussing hot topics such as politics or religion. Agree in advance to have "off limit" topics at your gathering. If an argument does take place, avoid taking sides and monitor your alcohol intake so you can stay clear headed.

3. Talk about feelings during the holidays. Keep communication open so that everyone feels comfortable voicing their opinion if they start to feel stressed out.

4. Set family priorities during the holidays. One of the biggest causes of stress during the holidays is trying to do too much in a short period of time. We often try to squeeze too many activities in a short time period and end up not enjoying any of them!  Discuss with your family which holiday activities are most important to them. Learn to say "no" to some activities. Although it may be difficult to do, you are putting your family first which should always be the priority.

5. Set limits on spending. Financial spending is always a huge stress factor during the holiday season. Instead of buying your children those extra toys, vow to spend more quality time with them this holiday season. Memories are not found in things, but the times you spend with those you care about.

6. Have fun and enjoy the season. Happiness is contagious! If you're happy, your family is more likely to be happy, too!

Happy Holidays!

*Laurie Whitehead is a registered mediator with the State of Georgia and does mediation consulting and cases with the Justice Center of Atlanta. Contact her for more information:(678) 462-9954, ljwhitehead@mindspring.com.

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