It is school holidays in Australia, and between the onslaught of families travelling around the nation and Easter festivities, there are a lot of reunions taking place. But catching up with extended family isn’t necessarily, joy-filled is it?
If the idea of seeing extended family or the in laws during the holidays is causing you stress, these steps will help:
1. Pre plan as best you can
As much as you’re able, schedule when you will see family or acquaintances ahead of time. It means that you won’t panic if you accidentally bump into someone you know – or if they see your location on social media! If you don’t want to connect while you’re on holidays, ensure you keep your location offline until you’re back to avoid feelings of pressure.
2. Set conversation topics
What do you have in common with these people? If nothing else, the last family gathering, their pet dog, or the weather are all amicable topics you can chat about. Consider these before you arrive so you have plenty of options. Don’t stress about having to talk the whole time – arrange the catch up over a meal so you can spend a good amount of time eating or talking about the restaurant décor. Alternatively, go for a walk while you catch up, or take the kids to the park so you are kept busy the whole time.
3. Don’t minimise yourself
In a toxic or unhealthy family environment, we can minimise ourselves in order to survive. And while we may have overcome a lot over the years, returning to a family event can put people back into their child hood roles. If your learned posture is to minimise yourself, to take the blame for everything, or to try and save everyone – let yourself off the hook. You are not responsible for the behaviour of other adults. So stand your ground with grace, integrity, and don’t let them project their insecurities into you.
4. Keep the peace
When relatives push your buttons, it is easier said than done to keep the peace. And there are times we need to boldly approach conflict by speaking up, setting boundaries or even leaving relationships to maintain our wellbeing. But if you are in a spot where you can amicably get through a short event – even if it’s just for grandma or the kids – try to suck up the annoyance and get through it. Don’t bite back when a relative says something that frustrates you. Don’t engage in topics or arguments that aren’t fruitful. Just stick to what is light and fluffy. Remember, you don’t have to see these people every day, so don’t let them drain you of unnecessary energy.
5. Keep it short and sweet
Family get-togethers don’t have to be lengthy! Some folks will spend all day together, and lunch will turn to an afternoon nap and dinner time. There are people who love this – but it’s okay if you don’t. We all have a different threshold for social events and relationships, especially when we have experienced trauma. So commit to a short and sweet event – like lunch – and then you can leave. Perhaps you could even set a time to leave so it is non-negotiable. Remember, when other people ask you to stay, it’s likely they just enjoy your company. But you don’t need to feel guilty for setting boundaries.
6. Be on the same page
If you’re attending a family event with your partner, or a relative you are particularly close to, make sure you are on the same page before you arrive. Ensure you both know what your triggers are, and how to help each other (eg. Making sure you are not left to have a conversation with a particularly complex relative alone). Set your exit strategy and leave together, so neither of you are surprised or disappointed. And no matter what, keep a united front. The conflict and chaos you are walking into does not have to overflow into your relationship. So don’t turn on one another, poke fun or share embarrassing stories. You are each other’s safe person during the family get-together.
Would you like to learn how to honour yourself in complex family environments? Do you need strategies to keep the peace or set boundaries? Contact Colleen on 0434 337 245 or Duncan on 0434 331 243 for a FREE 10-minute phone consultation on how we can best help you, or press book now.