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Managing Family Relationships During the Holidays

The end of year signals time to gather (virtually) with friends and family to celebrate the holiday season. These gatherings can bring up feelings of excitement or dread. We look forward to reuniting with distant relatives and friends, recalling past events and relationships but stressful conversations may arise for the same reasons.  We can find ways to improve relationships among uncomfortable conversations in a controlled environment. Below are some thoughts to get you started:


The first essential skill is learning to listen. Listening to others means giving them your undivided attention. Pull out the main themes you hear and repeat them back or paraphrase. Paraphrasing lets the speaker know you understand or allows them to explain themselves further. Practice this skill with the children in your life and see what happens.


Second, respond to what is being said by the other person. Take any personal offense out of the comment and attempt to understand the meaning. Removing our biases can be hard to do, especially when we are highly invested in our opinions. Sarah Stewart Holland and Beth Silvers, authors of “I Think You’re Wrong (But I’m Listening),” refer to this step as taking off the team jersey. Our viewpoint is going to be colored by the team we support. When we step away from our team, we can better understand what is said without injecting personal affiliations.


Finally, we can agree to disagree. If we have taken our investment out of the conversation, we can more easily let this go. Deciding as a group not to bring up specific topics could be a conversation had before the gathering. Relationships are more important than determining who is right. It is time to let go of the past and use our experiences to create a better future.


Debra Brockington, LMHC, MT-BC , is a Clinic Therapist/Board Certified Music Therapist with Tanager Place.

Copyrighted (2020)

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