OWW Blog

From licensed healthcare providers who are experts in their field

Navigating Family Dynamics When You’re Home for the Holidays

Dec 20, 2023

Spending time with family during the holidays can bring on a mixed bag of emotions. Even people who have overall healthy and positive relationships with their family members can find themselves stressed out or frustrated with playing out old patterns of interaction when they visit home. If you decide to visit or host your family over the holidays (or really any time for that matter), consider using some these coping strategies.


Go in Prepared

It’s important to keep in mind that your family of origin is one of the main contributing factors to your adult strengths and weaknesses/difficulties. When we return to our family of origin, we are much more likely to fall into whatever roles we held when we were children. Sometimes that’s peacemaker, caretaker, scapegoat, comedic relief. Knowing ahead of time that returning to your original family dynamics is likely to pull for you to engage in old habits of interaction. If you have been working to change the role you play or the way you operate interpersonally, you can prepare yourself ahead of time and be on the lookout for temptation to regress into dysfunctional interactions. Have patience with yourself, and know that it is normal to feel “like a child” when you return to a dynamic where you once were one.


Boundary Setting

Boundaries are not demands you place on other people, but declarations of how you will behave in response to a given situation. It can be helpful to consider scenarios ahead of your visit that might require you to set and communicate clear boundaries. Maybe there are political topics you prefer not to debate at the dinner table, maybe there are family members that you would like to see, but only for an hour or two. Maybe there is a manner in which you are not willing to let people communicate with you, such as raising their voice or commenting on your appearance. Know that while you can’t control other people’s behavior, you can control how you respond to it, and you can ultimately remove yourself or opt out from a conversation.


Taking Alone Time

One of the great things about being an adult is having autonomy over your time and space. While you might love spending time with your family or going home to your parents’ house, it can sometimes start to wear on people. If you find that you’re approaching being maxed out on social interactions, consider how you might get a little bit of alone time to re-center and recuperate. You could go on a walk, schedule time with friends or by yourself away from family, or even take an extended break in the bathroom if you’re at a large social gathering.


Maintaining a Routine

One of the things that gets thrown off when we travel is our typical self care routine. Do your best to continue prioritizing getting adequate sleep, physical activity, and nutrition. To the best of your ability, try to go to sleep and wake up at your usual times. If you’re in a place where your go-to exercise options aren’t available, it can be helpful to get outside on a run, walk or hike, try visiting a local gym, or even following an online workout class or YouTube video. If you differ significantly in how or what your family eats, consider doing a mini grocery run for the foods that you know make you feel good.


Lastly, remember that you are an adult who can choose to be where and with whom you desire. It’s always ok to decide that you can sit this one out and spend the holidays without your family if that’s what’s best for your mental health. Whether you choose to spend all, part, or none of your holiday season with family, you can manage stressors and prioritize your mental and physical health with just a little bit of extra planning ahead and calling on your coping skills.

Outdoor Women's Wellness 

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