We might be looking forward to the holidays with great anticipation: excited, joyous anticipation or anticipation full of dread, or a mixture of both. Our hope is for it to go well, we want to see family but history might be telling us to be more cautious.
With a little planning and realistic anticipation we can change the way we respond to Uncle Joe’s brash behavior, Aunt Nellie’s pat on the cheek, or any number of other ways family members typically behave.
Let’s be detectives.
First, sit with paper and pen in hand and identify the family members who will be involved. Beside their name, note what behavior you can expect from each of them. It might be necessary to draw lines between family members who typically get engaged with behavior you find difficult to navigate. It is important to identify the predictable patterns which you have observed over time.
Once you have a realistic picture of the players begin your second step. Make a list of what you typically do in each situation. For example:
- Do you retreat?
- Do you have another piece of pie?
- Do you have too much to drink as a means of escaping the situation?
- Do you get in the thick of the fight later to regret what you have said?
- Do you attempt to help everyone get along and make it better?
- Do you avoid having another piece of pie because mother will say something about your weight?
- Do you like spending time with your cousin whom you don’t see often?
- What about the scene do you enjoy?
It is as important to identify what you like as well as what you don’t like. The next piece to the detective work might be the most difficult but it is the most important step to changing the outcome.
The most successful changes will be those changes that are small, direct, and simply stated.
Third, imagine doing something different in each situation that allows you make a positive step to a more enjoyable holiday. The most successful changes will be those changes that are small, direct, and simply stated. For example, “I want you to come for dinner but I need to ask you not to come if you have already been drinking.” The ability to think through what you can do differently gives you the choice over your own holiday. We do not have change over anyone else but we can change our part which is the most important part.
Fourth, anticipate how others will respond to the changes you anticipate making in order to be prepared.