Many of us have perfect visions of the holidays – love, traditions like football in the yard, turkey in the oven; the works. However, for some of us, the holidays can feel disappointing as tension fills the air and you suddenly remember why it’s been so long since you’ve seen certain relatives. Sometimes that tension turns into tension between you and your partner. Inevitably during the holidays, at least one family member will push buttons or start talking about those “hot topics” (religion, politics, opposing sports teams, etc). Adding in strict holiday itineraries, too much time together, too tight accommodations and family members can start to feel restless and stressed. The stresses of sharing space and family chaos create a lot of difficulties with staying patient and communicating effectively with your family during the holidays.
Medical professionals are starting to use the term hyper-co-presence to describe this phenomenon. It derives from the word “co-presence” which means, “occurrence of two or more things together in the same place and time.” When hyper-co-presence occurs, families are suddenly forced to live in close quarters. Communicating with your loved ones during the holidays can be stressful enough already but when you add that and having nowhere to escape to, conflict can ensue. If you are wanting to avoid the potential conflicts or want to make sure you and your spouse continue to communicate well during this sometimes stressful time, I’d invite you to continuing reading.
Helpful Tips For Communicating With Family During The Holidays
Be Present. Be Patient.
Sometimes taking a breath and remembering that this is only temporary and your regular life will resume shortly is enough to take off the pressure. In conversation, focus on the good qualities in each other and praise each other often. If someone doesn’t feel up to participating, that’s ok. Don’t force family members to participate in every activity if they don’t want to.
If you must complain, balance it with at least one positive comment. “I appreciate how you took the trash out when it was needed. In the future can you remember to also bring the trash out to the street?” Avoid blaming each other. Make it a point to work together for a solution when communicating with family during the holidays.
Share your thoughts, feelings, and needs. A good way to be assertive without criticizing is to use “I” statements rather than “You” statements. Try saying, “I get worried when I don’t hear from you when you’re late, please let me know if you are running behind”. This is much more effective and soft than, “You are always late!”
Use Active Listening.
Summarize your family member’s comments before sharing your own reactions or feelings. Listen to understand, not to judge. Give full attention to your family when talking. Turn off the phones, make eye contact. This makes a huge difference in how you communicate with your family during the holidays.
The holidays can be wonderful but sometimes they are a downright stressful time of year. We all have tendencies to communicate less-effectively when we are stressed. Remember it is ok to give yourself some “alone time” so that you can maintain the patience needed. Taking a moment to yourself is worth it. Especially if it means the time spent with your family is that much more enjoyable. Try to balance family time with alone time so you don’t feel too claustrophobic or overwhelmed. Also, before the holidays or special occasions arrive, check in with your spouse and make sure you invest in your partner. They can be a great support for you during those times if you communicate assertively how you feel and what your needs are.
If you find yourself dreading the holidays or are already feeling the tension, I highly recommend making an appointment to talk with someone. Even if it’s only temporary for the holidays, having a place to vent and someone to give you unbiased feedback can really help you get through those tough moments with family.
See our related post on Managing Boundaries With In-Laws During The Holidays.