Healing family rifts

family arguing 1Is your family ready for the holidays? No I don’t mean whether you’ve got most of the shopping and cooking done. The bigger issue at this time of year is preparing for the inevitable tensions and conflicts that arise at family holiday gatherings. The typical pressures created by living together can become exacerbated by the high expectations of the season. And interactions can become particularly strained when you have a Millennial Boomerang Kid at home.

Saturday Night Live played Adele’s song “Hello” to prevent a brawl at the table in a dysfunctional family. But if that didn’t work for you at Thanksgiving, here are some other tips to put in place to defuse arguments when you all get together for the holidays:

Be proactive. Decide to be the one to take responsibility and begin a reconciliation process. Reach out and take the first step. That might include an apology, an expression of forgiveness or even a simple compliment – or a combination of these.

Keep it neutral. Recognize that no one is perfect, yourself included, and that there is generally more than one perspective. When you are willing to entertain the other person’s position, you’ll be more willing to give up knee-jerk reactions that can be counter-productive to maintaining family bonds.

Don’t get stuck in past. There may be triggers from childhood that are still affecting family connections today. Agree to work on resolving them so they don’t continue to intrude into present relationships.

Plan ahead. Reduce the likelihood of conflict by reminding yourself to avoid sarcasm and anger in your interactions with family members, even if the conversation doesn’t go as you planned. Save unsolvable hot button issues for another time and place.

Families are unique, complex and dynamic – they can change as a result of your thoughtful input. So express gratitude for the people in your life and consider making this holiday season the one that moves you all toward a more positive 2016. As George Bernard Shaw observed,

If you cannot get rid of a family skeleton, you may as well make it dance.

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