Avoiding Family Hoo-Hah Over the Holidays

Sometimes family drama can spoil holidays. Don't let it spoil yours.

Posted Dec 04, 2019

Am I too late with this post? Did you already have an awful time at the family Thanksgiving dinner? Worse yet, did you decline to join the family and sit home alone with a cheese sandwich because all your other plans fell through? You’re not to worry. There’s still Winter Holiday vacation, Christmas or Hanukkah festivities. If they’re something you dread you’re not yet off the hook.

People dread family get-togethers for various reasons: old sibling squabbles have carried over to adulthood, your aunt will happily tell you news of your ex and his or her new love and then ask you if you’re seeing anyone, one or both of your parents will ask about your living quarters, your friends, or your job with a very judgmental tone of voice. Any or all of the above? Do you have your own reason for not wanting to see family or take part in old family rituals? Let’s see what we can do about it.

Should you decide to go home for the holidays set some boundaries for yourself ahead of time: “I will only stay 2 days and not the whole week.” Or, “If they start on my personal life, who I’m seeing or what about children eventually, I will thank them for asking and change the subject. I will not be defensive.” They are entitled to ask and you are entitled not to answer.

If there is some other specific that you dread find a work-around so that you will not be upset by the inevitable political debate, or drunken uncle, or rehashing of old injustices. Excuse yourself from the room and hide in the bathroom for a while. If there is a dog around this is the moment to take her for a walk. Just refuse ahead of time to be a party to what distresses you and enjoy the good parts of home and food and family.

Alternatively, you can have or make other plans (that don’t include a cheese sandwich), thereby avoiding the whole thing. Go to a friend’s house and join in their festivities. Other people’s family dramas can be seen as interesting, even fascinating, since they are not about you.

No matter how small your place is you can host the holiday. If you feel unable to make a meal for several people have a pot luck dinner or Secret Santa gift exchange. Single or coupled, create new traditions so you are not made miserable by your old ones.

Be aware that if you have family who were counting on you to come home for the holidays there will be a price for not doing that. Only you can allow or shrug off the “guilting” that may very well come your way: “I’m so sorry, Mom/Dad/Auntie Em. I’ll miss you all but I have plans here. I’m sure you’ll have a good time without me. I’ll be thinking of you.” And that’s that. Be friendly and loving to all who phone or Skype. No need to explain more than “plans”. Then enjoy yourself, even if your plans enjoy binge watching your favorite TV show with your favorite snack. No guilt here. You are a grown-up with your own life. Enjoy it.