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The dreaded holidays are around the corner. Are you one of those people who dislike going to family functions? The family function where there is too much noise, too many people, and conflict. Visits to therapists increase during the holidays because of the stress of the family function. How is something portrayed on television as so serene and peaceful be so different from the real family function. The difference is that family functions involve real people not actors who are paid to act a certain way.

Everyone knows they can’t change other people to act the way they want. What you can do is change the environment and your beliefs about the situation in order to have a more peaceful and serene family function.

First you must realize that when the family comes together, each individual member falls back into their role in the family. These people will take on the traits they had as children. The attention getter will try to get more attention. The clown will make jokes. With these old roles come old feelings that you might not have resolved as an adult. An example of this would be when one child feels that their parent favors the other child. This dynamic will again appear in the family unit. It is ironic almost how a person can be grown and revert to a child when in the presence of their family. This dynamic can flow over into the grandchildren too. One adult child might feel that their mother favors the other grandchildren. Most of this will be unspoken, yet, body language tells the tale.

As others become more aware of the body language of the other’s around them the tension begins to build. To intervene in this situation you must become aware of what your role was in the family, and become aware of what issues you have not resolved with your parents. It doesn’t matter if anyone agrees with how you feel. It is a matter of you accepting that your parents and your siblings may never see what you do in the family dynamic. Many times we want validation from our family. Again you must accept that the only one that can validate your experiences is you.

The second intervention is not providing alcohol. Alcohol lowers people’s inhibitions, and self control. Some people will deliberately drink more than they should in order to express feelings that they otherwise cannot express. What this person does not realize is that when you point fingers and say how you feel in front of a crowd is not productive. The reaction is going to be compounded by the embarrassment of airing the dirty laundry in front of other people.

The third intervention could be assigned setting. If left to their own devices people will often place themselves in uncomfortable situations because they don’t know how to say I would rather sit elsewhere. You as the host ideally will know everyone on the guest list. You will know who doesn’t like who, and who likes who. Make place cards and encourage everyone to use them. Don’t forget to have a separate children’s table. The conversation at the adult table is boring to them. They want to talk and laugh among themselves. This allows the children freedom to get up go to the bathroom, and leave the table when they are ready.

The last intervention is keeping your family function short. Invite the guests 15 to 30 minutes before you eat. Serve the meal including the dessert all at once. This allows those uncomfortable for any reason the ability to escape the situation. This eliminates the waiting around that often happens at family functions. Too much time together is often the culprit of many conflicts during the holidays.

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