Navigating the holidays with toxic family can be incredibly challenging. Still, sometimes we can’t avoid these people without also avoiding healthy members of our family that we love.
Of course, you want to have an enjoyable holiday and not be stressed out the entire season. Here is a compiled list of 11 proven ways to deal with toxic family this holiday season.
1. Set boundaries well in advance
Setting boundaries is important when dealing with toxic people. Decide in advance what your boundaries will be and be sure to tell your partner as well. This can be as simple as putting a time-limit on conversation to avoiding certain topics altogether. Your boundaries are your choice. Decide what you are comfortable with before the interaction and stand your ground. If you find your boundaries being crossed, walk away.
2. Decide on a time to leave
Sometimes, it can help to have a clear idea of what time we will be leaving an event or party. It is easy to forget that we can leave if things get too unhealthy. Setting a time in advance gives you the mental note – it is time to go!
3. Spend time with people you trust
If you are attending an event or gathering where you know there will be a toxic personality, find someone you can trust. This can be someone that is already invited to the party, or you can ask the host if you can bring a guest along. It can be helpful if this person understands the situation as well.
4. Make a code word or gesture with your partner
Have you ever wanted to leave a party but had no way of communicating it with your partner? Come up with a safe phrase you can share in advance. This phrase means “I have had enough, it is time to go!”. This phrase can be as simple as “Hey, you have any chewing gum?”. Before you go into the party, remind your partner of the code phrase so that they don’t forget.
5. Choose mindfulness over reacting
Choosing mindfulness over reacting is one of the most powerful choices you can make when dealing with a toxic or narcissistic person. Remember, the toxic person wants you to react. It is important to keep your emotional distance and be mindful of your feelings.
A very effective technique is called “grey rocking”. When a toxic person is trying to cause you to react, try your best to act like a grey rock. Uninterested, bored, and nonreactive. Keep your answers short and your emotions flat.
By being mindful and choosing not to react, you can diffuse many situations with toxic people, and it may allow you to stay longer at a holiday function with other loved ones.
6. Do not take everything personally
It may be difficult at first, but, you should let go of any unpleasant remarks. Sometimes it’s better to nod your head and ignore the words of others. You know what is best for you. Just ignore them.
7. Plan a cooldown activity or treat for afterward
Holidays with toxic family members can be very stressful. One of my favorite secrets is planning an activity or treat that is low stress and lots of fun directly after a stressful event. You can choose anything from getting your best-loved drink, doing some fun shopping, checking out holiday decorations, or visiting with a good friend.
Instead of going to the event with a high-stress level, you will be looking forward to the reward and be closer to your emotional equilibrium.
Planning to do an activity that you enjoy after your stressful family event with help you avoid pre-party anxiety and gives you a built-in way to decompress.
7. Choose not to be around toxic family members
Unfortunately for some people, it is unhealthy and not safe to be around some of their toxic family members. If you are in that situation, you can choose not to spend time in a toxic home. While this may keep you from family events, you may be better off. Choosing not to spend time around your toxic family may get resistance from other family members, but your peace of mind and mental health is more important.
8. Accept what you cannot change
It takes a lot of time and effort to accept that you can’t change your family. While minimal family contact is not uncommon, our culture imposes tremendous guilt and shame on this behavior. In the end, you must accept that you cannot change the toxic behavior of others. All you can do is lift your head up, smile, and move on.
My favorite movie about Christmas with toxic family members:
There are many movies about dysfunctional families, but The Family Stone 2005 is my favorite! Imagine the stress level if you are going to meet your boyfriend’s family and everybody there hates you?