Holiday Family Conflict: Doing it the Same or Changing It A list of pros and cons of whether you should do things differently this holiday season. BY SHARON M. RIVKIN, M.A., M.F.T.
Addressing family conflict isn't easy, but it could make your holidays happier and healthier.
“ There are always consequences for changing the status quo, and being prepared for various outcomes should be part of the plan.”
The holidays are steeped in deep tradition, and the media and retailers drive it in even harder. There are some of us who love it! After all, itís a magical season filled with family, good food, gifts, and parties. But for a lot of us, the holidays are anything but magical, and they can actually bring dread to our psyches just thinking about all of the commitments, chores, and family issues that the holidays bring to bear.
Itís the season when unresolved family conflicts become a reality again, after a year of sweeping everything under the rug. We pretend itís going to be okay this year, but we often find that nothing will have really changed since last December 25.
So what do you do if youíre not looking forward to Christmas because of the same old stuff that happens every year that you donít do anything about? You have two options: Keep doing it the same way, or change it. To help you decide if you want to do things differently this year, Iíve laid out the pros and cons of each:
Keeping It the Same
* Itís familiar and comfortable to simply do nothing. After all, who wants to speak up, rock the boat, and deal with the consequences? Itís easier to keep the status quo.
* It may not be worth it to risk hurting someoneís feelings, so it might be easier to power through the day.
* If the issues arenít that horrible, why run the risk of an upheaval? If anything, it may be worth having a "lighter" conversation, rather than changing a tradition that may, for the most part, be wonderful.
* By not doing anything about the issues in your family, you become stressed and exhausted. If youíre honest with yourself, youíll see that itís taken its toll on you emotionally and maybe even physically.
* Keeping the status quo actually contributes to the dysfunctional system.
* If you often get hurt by the same family member, you most likely beat yourself up after the event because you didnít have the courage to stand up for yourself or do something different.
* You miss an opportunity for self-growth.
You know yourself and your family better than anyone else. The above pros and cons will hopefully bring you clarity as to which direction is right for you take.
* Itís very empowering to take your life and happiness into your own hands by changing tradition and the family rules.
* Stress is diminished because youíre thinking about the holidays in a new way, and youíre excited about your new plan.
* Sometimes the family can get healthy by just one person taking a stand, which has the potential to shift the dynamics in a good and positive way.
* Changing the yearly tradition can impact other areas of your life, giving you the courage to speak up where previously you didnít.
* In order to make change, you have to start communicating, which can rock the boat. This can be scary, and risky.
* Speaking up can potentially generate more conflict, so youíll need to muster courage and a backbone.
* Worst case scenario? Your family doesnít understand your position, or wonít listen to what you have to say. It may bring even more hurt and upset.
There are always consequences for changing the status quo, and being prepared for various outcomes should be part of the plan. But as you can see from the above, there are risks associated with change that you might not want to take, and there is also great potential for personal happiness, or an even a better relationship with your family.
Also known as the "last ditch effort therapist," Sharon M. Rivkin, therapist and conflict resolution/affairs expert, is the author of "Breaking the Argument Cycle: How to Stop Fighting Without Therapy" and developer of the First Argument Technique, a 3-step system that helps couples fix their relationships and understand why they fight. Her work has been featured in Oprah Magazine, Reader's Digest, Time.com, Yahoo!News.com, WebMD.com, and DrLaura.com. Sharon has appeared on TV, was quoted on The Insider TV show, and makes regular radio appearances nationwide. She has also appeared on Martha Stewart Whole Living Radio and makes regular radio appearances nationwide. For more information, please visit her website at www.sharonrivkin.com and follow her on Google+.