Woman dealing with stressful family members while sitting at a table.

3 Tips For Dealing With Stressful Family Members

Well, here we are, at the tail end of October, which means it’s Halloween. Now for me, that has always been the big kickoff to the holiday season, leading to the bigger ones of Thanksgiving and Christmas. And that means family events with brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts and uncles, grandma’s and grandpa’s, and of course, the in-laws. Now that’s a lot of different personalities in one spot and the right ingredients for a heaping dose of family tension. So whether you are contending with a  Cousin Eddie, a nosy aunt, or a Marie Barone type of mother-in-law, there are ways of dealing with stressful family members.

You can choose your friends, but you can’t pick your family. 

And to that, we all say a hearty “Amen”! Okay, fess up. Did you just think of a family member you wish you could chop off from the family tree? Well, if you didn’t, take notice, because you just might be that someone in your family. You never know. 

All kidding aside, every family wrestles with dealing with stressful family members. But, all is not lost. I’m going to share three tips that can help you handle the family drama appropriately and allow you to enjoy your family time. And, I’m sure you will find the tips helpful, so let’s get to it!

3 Tips For Dealing With Stressful Family Members

1. Accept that you can’t change or control their behavior, but you can manage your own.

Unfortunately, some family members excel at being annoying and, in all honesty, are a royal pain to be around sometimes. If you have relatives like that (and who doesn’t?) And you know you will be spending time in their presence, save yourself some stress by accepting that nothing you say or do is going to change the way they are or behave. 

People are who they are. Difficult family members are well-known for their lack of ability to self-reflect and admit when they’re wrong. So don’t take it personally. 

Instead, accept that how they are acting has nothing to do with you but rather with themselves.

The best way to handle it is not to focus on their troublesome behavior. But instead, to focus on what you can control, which is how you act and react to their shenanigans.

2. Develop a strong sense of self

Being able to control your behavior and how you react is tied to having a solid sense of self. For when you lack a strong sense of self, it’s easy to fall in line with your family’s expectations for you. And if that means ignoring your own needs or desires, it’s a good possibility that you will experience anxiety and discomfort when you spend time with them.

The last thing you want to do is to drift through life feeling uncertain or indecisive about choices in life. Or being swayed by meddling family members and circumstances rather than your own momentum. 

That’s why it’s so crucial to cultivate a strong sense of self. For when you really know who you are and how you feel, you will less likely be able to be manipulated by your family’s emotions.  And it also enables you to manage your anxiety better when you are around them.

3. Manage your own expectations

Suppose you have a buttinsky for an uncle who always takes over conversations or always has to tell you how he thinks things should be done. Or a pushy aunt who, every time she sees you, feels the need to ask you why aren’t you married or have any kids yet.  Truly, having any expectation that they will be different at the next family event is a disappointment or a resentment waiting to happen. 

Alternatively, you might find it helpful to prepare yourself mentally for your interaction with your good ole uncle and aunty. For indeed, their past behavior is a good indication of what to expect. So use that history and think about how you might respond to them when that happens. For example, respond with “I’ll have to think about that” or “Thank you for your concern,” and then change the topic to something more comfortable for you.

Instead of making self-made traps of unrealistic expectations, being prepared ahead of time can help you handle any problematic interactions with less stress.

“You don’t get to choose your family, but you do get to choose how they’re allowed to treat you.” — Unknown

For sure, we all have those individuals in our family that we love yet know we can only take them in small doses—even in the best of families. Using these three tips to navigate your family dynamics will not only help you around them but with other difficult people as well. After all, you will encounter difficult people everywhere not just in your family.

Another great way to learn how to cope with stressful family members is to work with a coach .  A coach can help you discover other tools to put in your arsenal, helping you be ready for any future interactions you might have within your family relationships.

Hi, I’m Kris Henderson, LPC. I want you to know that I am here to help. If you would like more personalized support, I invite you to contact me or schedule your phone call. I look forward to helping you manage your stress by helping you find new ways in dealing with those difficult family members. I hope to hear from you soon! 

This article originally appeared at My Anxiety Link

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