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Dealing with Family Drama During the Holidays

November 27, 2013

By Lori Hanson

It’s not just me, the morning talk shows do segments on it every year, the dreaded family drama that comes from getting everyone together. Thanksgiving kicks off the holiday season and brings us a mixed bag of anticipation and excitement, joy, disappointment, infighting and drama. Why? Because many families—and I know this will be shocking for you to read—are dysfunctional.

No matter how you’ve tried to get along with your mother-in-law, your Aunt Aggie, Grandpa Sloane and that mean bitch of a cousin of yours, drama always ensues. There are many issues to choose from:

  • Who is cooking and having everyone over
  • What time you get together (and working it around football)
  • Who is paying for everything and feels they are getting screwed
  • Whose kids are uncontrollable
  • Who started the fight this time
  • Who drank too much
  • Who put on weight, or got too skinny
  • Who overhead Aunt Sally say something that couldn’t believe she said and whispered it to everyone else

Sounds like National Lampoons Family Thanksgiving doesn’t it? No matter how much intent you serve up to enjoy this year’s family get togethers for most people a bit of drama will be mixed into the Thanksgiving cocktails.

For me, adding the comedy into the mix helps to lighten the pressure I feel around family gatherings. It’s not all going to go smoothly, it never does. Once the siblings have grown and start bringing around significant others and kids the energy changes. Then there are step mom and dads and step kids to add even more toxins to the mix.

The only thing you can do this time of year is adjust your attitude and outlook. What attitude are you taking to Thanksgiving tomorrow? Are you dreading it? Have you already decided what will go wrong and have you spent all day today telling everyone at work, or your friends and immediate family how it will all go down—because you know how it always does? If so, there’s not a chance it will be any different. Because you’re locked and loaded on the target of seeing family drama at Thanksgiving.

What if you took some time to let go of all those nasty, negative thoughts and stopped telling everyone the “ain’t it awful” story of what you’ll have to endure tomorrow? What if you arrived tomorrow expecting the day to bring something different and looking for the best possible outcome?

I’ll admit there were families I knew growing up and even in my adult life that I wondered how they could all get along so well. They always seem to enjoy each other’s company and have so much fun. It seems the exception vs. the norm. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had plenty of fun with my family, but…the drama is always there if you’re looking for it.

Take a walk on the wild side this year in honor of Lou Reed’s passing. Do something that might feel totally crazy and expect to have fun and enjoy your time with the family tomorrow. When you start to feel the anxiety and hear yourself speaking the rhetoric of Thanksgivings past, say “STOP” out loud and get your mind focused on something else. Anything that makes you feel good. The less you focus on what you don’t want to happen and the more you focus on things that feel good—the better the odds that you’ll see things differently and enjoy the day.


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