Holiday Survival Guide: How to Cope with Your Imperfect Family

by Ali Brown

Holidays are supposed to be times of great joy. Doe-eyed children, glittering decorations, and warm family moments are on display everywhere in films, cards and commercials, and it’s hard not to want to recreate these fictitious scenes in our own lives.

But for most of us, being reunited with our families can bring up a lot of old stuff. And, if you aren’t well armed with a sense of humor before the family starts pouring through the front door, anger and despair from old hurts might swallow your holiday cheer. Here are a few pointers for handling your family with style and grace this holiday season. Hang in there!

Manage your expectations
Most of us would like to think that everyone has a dysfunctional family, and that no one has a family quite as quirky as our own. In a way, this is true because there’s no way anyone else’s family could possibly annoy you as much as your own. Simply maintaining this perspective could cool you off a little. But it’s also healthy to remain realistic about the family dynamic. Instead of shooting for perfection, anticipate that a spat or two might erupt while everyone’s back together. These aren’t simply dinner guests, after all.  They are -- for better and for worse -- your family!

Greet them warmly
If the relationship has been strained in the past, they are probably dreading this holiday reunion time as much as you are. Start things off on a different foot. Give them a warm hug when they walk in the door or express your gratitude for their coming to be with you. You can set the tone for the trip (and reset it every time things start slipping to the old family dynamic).

Pick your battles

Make the distinction about what is worth fighting for and what isn’t. If the conversation takes a turn you don’t want to handle, politely excuse yourself and leave the room. If you know that you are heading toward a dead-end argument, acknowledge this reality and let it go. But, don’t be afraid to defend your beliefs if you feel strongly about them. I don’t know a better way to kill an argument than by saying “We agree to disagree.”

Like everything else in life, family time is sprinkled with warm moments and frustrating ones. If the tree didn’t fall over at least once and the dog didn’t chase Aunt Susie’s cat across the dining room table, then you’d be left with nothing to talk about other than Uncle Harold’s gallbladder. After all, the best memories are the -- well, memorable ones!

© 2010 Ali International, LLC

Entrepreneur mentor Ali Brown teaches women around the world how to start and grow a profitable business that make a positive impact. Get her FREE CD “Top 10 Success Secrets for Entrepreneurial Women” at

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