Here in the United States we are about to celebrate Thanksgiving. While some of you enjoy holidays that closely resemble the Hallmark Channel, others are already experiencing anxiety and even dread at the idea of facing family members this week.

Conflicts and disagreements with family members are common. Are you feeling worried about dealing with comments, questions, opinions, judgements, attitudes, etc.? Do you find yourself already practicing responses to those people who get under your skin? I have some practical tips that will help you enjoy this week instead of feeling anxious and worried.

  1. Redirect your energy to something positive. If you find yourself wasting time imagining conversations that may never happen, practice re-directing your energy and focus your attention on tasks that are positive. What are some ideas and projects that you’ve been putting off? Do you want to donate to a charity this season? Gather some friends and neighbors to go on a shopping trip and fulfill a wish list for a local charity that you admire. Organize your photo’s, clean a closet, call someone that you’ve lost touch with, drop in on a local nursing home, or work on a creative project that you’ve been neglecting.
  2. Gain a fresh perspective. Take a moment to imagine that you are meeting your family members for the very first time. How would you view their comments and opinions if they were total strangers? What if you did not have years of irritation or resentment built up? What if there were no hurt feelings that existed? Would you react/respond differently? Would things bother you as deeply? Might you feel empathetic towards their own challenges and past experiences? This is an exercise that allows you to practice grace and forgiveness with yourself and others.
  3. Prepare some positive responses to questions that irritate you. Arm yourself with some pre-planned, positive responses that will take the sting out of those irritating questions asked by well-meaning relatives. For example: You don’t eat dairy? “No, ma’am, but I do still eat green bean casserole. Did you make your’s this year? I’ve been looking forward to it all week.” Or, When are you going to get married?No plans to get married, but we are planning a week at the beach this summer. Don’t you have an anniversary coming up? What are your plans to celebrate?” Remember that your family usually asks questions because they care about you, even if sometimes the way they phrase the questions can come across as hurtful and judgmental.
  4. Focus on the positive. One exercise that can help you prepare for a stressful holiday gathering is to pull out a journal and make a list of all of your family members. Next to their names, list what you like and appreciate about each person. What fond memories do you have of when they were young? What makes you laugh when you think of them? What struggles have they overcome? What traits of theirs do you admire?

Remember, this holiday is about gratitude and is a time to set aside our differences. When you rise to the challenge, you teach your entire family to do the same. Good luck. ?