How are the folks? Does the thought of spending time with your family this Christmas fill you with dread?
Christmas is supposed to be all about good will and love and all that stuff isn’t it?
Ho! Ho! Ho! Who forgot the bloody mistletoe?
Relationships with parents, children, ex husbands, mothers-in-law etc. can be tricky at the best of times, but at this time of year when you are all flung together and expected to perform at your best; Christmas day is often a big disappointment for everyone.
Longstanding problems and unpleasant experiences with family members are hard to dispel or resolve even with the Christmas spirit. It’s not going to be all love and kisses just by sharing a meal or downing a few bottles of the good stuff.
Past issues often spill over into the present, with toxic family members resorting to unpleasant, undermining comments to spoil your day.
Is your family toxic? If you are brimming over with anger, self- justification and resentment it probably is.
Families can be toxic in various ways.
Signs of toxicity include:
- Sarcastic comments housed in humour or in the guise of ‘caring about you.’
- Funny insults.
- The negative ‘innocent ‘ remarks.
- The putdowns.
- Openly nasty comments.
Most of these toxic backhanded remarks have double meanings that leave you feeling confused and invalidated. And blatantly ‘out there’ attacks leave you feeling, hurt, tense, uncomfortable, and bad about yourself. You may even find yourself resorting to similar toxic tactics, so that you can redress the balance of power back to you.
But that is not conducive to the spirit of Christmas or your sanity, so what do you do?
A Christian perspective might be ‘to forgive’ but for many who have suffered at the hands of toxic families this is not always a viable first option. Whilst forgiveness can help you to move forward with your life and give you the freedom to let go of pain, it is not something that is easy to do when the damage done has hurt you irrevocably.
A more realistic approach might be ‘acceptance.’ Acceptance does not involve the resolution of a past hurt as forgiveness does. Acceptance is a more realistic approach that does not seek to be correct or lay blame.
Accept your family just as they are, flawed and damaged in their own humanity and don’t forget to accept yourself also.
Self- acceptance is a huge gift that you can give yourself.
Acceptance is a first step towards understanding how you and they came to be.
And whilst you are trying to be more accepting of your family and yourself, here are some strategies that may help you keep your sanity this Christmas.
6 Powerful strategies to help you deal with your toxic family this Christmas.
1) Smile – even when you don’t feel like it. A smile and laughter is infectious. Your family may think you’re crazy but that’s ok!
2) Focus on you and not on them. What would you like to do that gives you pleasure?
3) Respond warmly to positive comments.
4) Ignore negative comments.
5) Offer genuine compliments, even if they are hard to conjure up.
6) Be aware of your own behavior. Try not to let toxic comments trigger you into an overreaction.
These strategies are a start in the way you respond to your toxic family. They will help you survive Christmas Day.
As you try to develop a more accepting nature towards your family, you may be able to recognise, in a more objective way that the problem that you see with them could also be with you.
You can choose to accept your family as they are today and still enjoy Christmas despite them. As you change your attitude towards them, they may or may not change in response to you. Whatever happens, that is ok.
What I do know is that if you attach your own happiness and peace of mind based on the behavior of others you will never be happy.
When you change the focus of your thoughts away from your family onto you, your demands of them will lessen and your complaints about them will disappear. You will be more accepting and less judgmental. You will be able to communicate with them less defensively and any love that you may feel for them will be more genuine and unconditional.
If you can just accept them as they are, however difficult and demanding they may be, then you free yourself up to be responsible for your own sanity this Christmas.