Surviving the Holidays

“Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city.” - George Burns






Exit Plan


Q &A

Next Month

When we think of the holidays we think of our families and flash back to a peaceful family setting – everyone smiling and happy, filled with warmth and good cheer. If you come from a family like that you’re lucky, but most of us do not.

Holidays can be stressful in the best of times, because we’re out of our routine – but when the there are family members with addiction, or other impulse control behaviors, holidays can be horrific. So here are survival tips to get you through the season with the least amount of emotional pain.

The topic for December: Surviving the Holiday Season.

Choices: if you reflect on past holidays you know what will happen. History has a way of repeating itself. But, you always have a choice – attend or not. If you choose to go, don’t agonize about it. Go with a positive attitude. Don’t expect that things will be different this year than in the past. The difference is that this year, you’ve chosen not to be affected by them.

Relax: in a dysfunctional family certain people will say or do something that will trigger the others to react. Don’t buy into it. Don’t argue, don’t blame – bite your tongue if you have to, but don’t let them involve you in their drama.

Change: if there are arguments around the dinner table, make dinner less formal. A buffet can be easier and more comfortable for everyone. People can interact with the ones they want to. You would also be more in control at your house, so, if you’ve always go over to ‘mom’s’ change the tradition. If she demands it, tell her why you want to change things this year.

Negativity: when someone is unhappy, moody, or drunk, others are affected. Don’t let a negative person ruin the party for everyone else. Don’t try to cheer them up or give them negative attention. Make sure you have a good time regardless of their mood.

ObjectivityIf someone starts and argument or a fight, don’t jump in as a savior. If it is none of your concern, don’t get involved. Don’t come to the rescue. Let those who are arguing solve their own problems. This doesn’t mean that you don’t care, it means you’ve stopped

Exit Plan If people are rude or unmanageable, take children outside, or to another room, etc and play with them. Always have an exit plan just in case… If others are out of control, don’t stay. Give an excuse and get out.

If you feel that you have to go home, or stay in a hotel, do it. There may be talk, but they’ll talk anyway. Don’t become a hostage to gossip.

Holiday Survival Tips:

1) Form alliances with those you love and stay clear of the dysfunctional ones.

2) Don’t expect others to be different. You’re the one who must change.

3) Don’t get involved in arguments

4) Don’t get involved in fights

5) Keep busy – help in the kitchen, with the kids etc.

6) Don’t try to please everyone and make things ‘OK’.

7) Use laughter and humor to take off the pressure.

8) Remove children from a toxic environment and stay with them.

9) If you’re upset, take ‘time-out’ to decompress.

10) Make an exit plan and use it.

You may never love these family gatherings, but find something good that came out of it. As my Aunt Sara used to say, “you can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family”. She was right. But you DO have a choice about letting dysfunctional family members push your buttons.

Q & A

I have a 15 year old daughter and she steals from any one, anywhere. She has yet to be arrested, but she has come very close. She steals from family, friends, stores, you name it she’ll steal it. I am trying to figure out if she just can't help it, or if it is something else. We have been dealing with this since she was around 4 and I’m at the end of my rope. Please tell me what to do.


At 4 a child can take something from a store, not understanding that this is shoplifting
but if they keep stealing and they know better, something else is going on.

Your daughter needs professional help to clear up what's bothering her and give her other strategies to handle her life in a more positive way.

I don't know what services are available in your area, but if you have access to psychological services, this would be the best route to follow. Your family doctor should be able to refer you.

Lectures and punishment are not working, so stop. It only upsets both of you even more. Do the homework. Make an appointment with the therapist, then tell her there's no option. She must to go.

Your daughter is 15 and lives with you, so right now, you still have some control. As she gets older, it may be too late, so get her help as soon as you can.


Next Month

Next month: Gift yourself with A New Attitude for 2010. This is a gift that keeps on giving.

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