The holidays can be a very busy season for all. Culturally this holiday season is so often promoted as a time to spend with family, exchanging gifts and enjoying special holiday meals. Holiday gatherings can also bring up family conflict, and considering we have all endured months of pandemic stress, can make family relationships a little more fragile. Add additional stressors like crowded stores, overspending and social anxiety, navigating family and relationships can become overwhelming.

Good news! You can enjoy the holidays with family and friends. 

Keep in mind we are all unique and understand our world differently. Being different, and having different experiences, thoughts, and opinions is okay. We simply do not have to adopt others’ perceptions. Understand that not everyone will agree with what you say, or your values and you may not agree with theirs. 

Active listening helps others feel heard and validated. Active listening takes being patient and silent. To truly understand what others are saying, rephrase their words. This shows others you are listening and clarifies their meaning to you and can relieve stress in those who need to be heard.

Avoid making assumptions about others’ intent in what they say or do. We rarely know the whole story.  Understand that there may well be tense moments, given the divisive political nature we are living with today. Make reducing stress your goal. Be prepared to NOT debate. Let them talk, walk away. 

Family gatherings can bring up long buried emotions. Emotions are neither right nor wrong, they just are. Minimizing or judging others is not helpful. Validate their feelings, acknowledge that they are sad, mad or happy.  And pay attention to how you are feeling. Others may not be aware you are struggling. 

There is no magic wand for a conflict-free holiday, but with a little effort, plenty of understanding and patience, you can help turn your family holiday time into that warm, wonderful time we love.

Six Rivers wishes you and yours a peaceful and joyful holiday season. 

by Ona Lawrence, Six Rivers Staff Mediator

To learn more tips for a peaceful, enjoyable holiday season, please check out our holiday newsletter.