Holidays and Family Conflict

November 26th, 2013 by Anne Parpas

Broken Christmas90 percent report stressing over the holiday season while 65 percent predict a family fight at the holiday dinner table. (

Thanksgiving is here in just a couple of days, and with that comes not just excitement of having a day off from work, but also giving thanks for the blessings we have been given over the past year.  As the day nears, grocery shopping, travel, and the thought of the craziness of “Black Friday” can be extremely stressful.  We quickly forget that with family and friends gathering together can come unresolved conflict. Whether it is old hurts or the stresses of everyday life, how we choose to respond to our friends and family during holiday gatherings can either connect us or further tear us apart.

Being with a group of people, we feel that we have more support when we feel like “airing” out our grievances with others.  We ultimately cannot control what people say and do to us, but we can choose to control how we respond (verbally or non-verbally).  We can decide whether to allow our emotions to take over or to step back, and we become aware of whether or not saying or doing something will help or hurt a situation.

As adults we also have to remember that we set the tone of the time we share with others.  Our children watch how we interact and deal with conflict.  They also observe and learn how we operate with the world around us.

If alcohol is included in the celebrations, mindfulness of our limits is vital because our social inhibitions can be lowered with increased alcohol consumption.  Lowered inhibitions can impact the way we present ourselves in social settings and can cause behaviors that we later regret like aggression, self-disclosure, and violent acts.

Ways you can help reduce conflict

–          Be present and enjoy the time you have with family and realize that there are many other people in this world that are alone or have lost family members that they wish they could spend time with.

–          Resist the urge to be like Martha Stewart:  Be yourself and you would be surprised at how creative you can be.

–          If a conflict presents itself, try not to let your emotions take control, but be aware of what emotions you are feeling, if they have anything to do with what is going on at the moment, and what would be the best way to respond.

–          If you need to confront someone about an issue that is happening at that moment, take them aside, away from everyone and express what is bothering you with respect using statements like “I feel…”,  not “you make me feel.”

–          When you are feeling your emotions heating up, it is okay to ask for space and time to cool down.  Leave the room, take a walk, count to 10, take a deep breath, and/or give yourself a time-out so that you can decompress any feelings of stress, anxiety, or anger.

–          If you feel like you “screwed up” or “gave in” to conflict, remember that we all make mistakes and a lot of times it is not about our mistakes, but how we take ownership for our part in the conflict.


Have a blessed Thanksgiving!!

Planning for the Holidays

November 13th, 2013 by Anne Parpas

11.12.13-Planning for The HolidaysThe holiday season is upon us again!  Somehow it sneaks up every year.   The refreshing change of season brings in a change of clothes in our closets.   Department stores become a winter wonderland of fake snow and holiday music.  The Hallmark channel is overtaken by a rotating slew of sappy holiday romance stories.  With all of this also comes the shrinking of free time in your calendar.

Whether you’ve just celebrated Diwali or Muharram, or are about to celebrate Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, or the New Year, the end of the calendar year tends to fill up rather quickly with a smorgasbord of celebratory activities.  Once the holiday season gets rolling, it can be easy to bounce from event to event without taking time to remember to take care of yourself.  Many wake up after the New Year to find that they are exhausted, paying off high credit card bills, and struggling to fit into their pants.  Taking some time at on the front end of the holiday season can have some significant payoffs at the end!

Physical Health

Weight gain is one of the most common complaints about the holiday season.  Celebrating always seems to come with a side of delicious and fattening foods.  Between family gatherings, work parties, and celebrating with friends, the amount of food adds up and can do some significant damage to the waistlines.  Although a few extra pounds may still sneak on, there are some simple and proactive ways to get ahead of holiday weight.

Although most people wait to start a work-out routine for their New Year’s Resolution, exercising throughout the holidays can make difference.  Burning some calories before the celebrating begins works to off-set the large meals we’re presented with.  Exercise also increases self-confidence, which can come in handy as you dress for holiday events.  As an added bonus, exercise will release endorphins, which will help get rid of those winter blues!

Planning around your holiday meals can also make a significant difference.  Making healthy choices throughout the week will allow for a few splurges at gatherings on weekends.  Plan good choices for breakfasts, lunches, and dinners that are balanced and nutritious.   While at a holiday gathering, creating a balanced plate with your food options will prevent food regret the next day.  Try to create a good ratio between protein, vegetables, and carbohydrates for your main meal.  After all of your planning and good decision making, don’t be afraid to celebrate with a little dessert!

Family and Friends

The holiday season usually gathers together family and friends.  Being with loved ones can be a special time to laugh and share together.  But for some, there are past hurts or conflicts that can make these types of gatherings more stressful than enjoyable.  It can be tricky to balance the social obligations of attending these events while not stirring up extra relationship drama.

If you find yourself worried about these types of gatherings, a little pre-planning can go a long way.  Finding out the guest list for a gathering can help prepare you for who and what to expect.  It can be helpful to think through how you would like to manage sticky situations.  Plan calm ways to de-escalate conflicts.  Remember, you can only control how you react in situations.  Do not plan to control others, but prepare yourself to remain calm.  A word of caution while you’re thinking about this, do not let yourself become worked-up and stressed over these potential situations.  Try to strike a balance between preparing yourself to stay calm, while not assuming the worst will happen or dwelling on the “could be’s”.

Budget Planning

Before your holiday season kicks it, creating a quick holiday budget can do wonders for your stress level after New Years.  Hits to your wallet can come from giving gifts, dinner parties, and other holiday gatherings.   As the spirit of giving kicks in, it can be easy to spend more then you initially intended.

Take a look at your calendar, and make a quick count of the holiday gatherings where gifts will be involved.  Count up how many people you are planning to give a gift to, and set a price limit for each person.  Make sure the total fits into your budget.  If you’d like to really plan ahead, set up a similar budget for the next holiday season, and put a little away each month starting in January.  You’ll already have everything saved up by the time next year rolls around!

Your calendar should also tell you how many meals you’ll be preparing or dinners you’ll be attending.  Similar to planning for gifts, tally up how many dishes you’ll be making or restaurant dinners you’ll be paying for.   Make sure it’s do-able for your budget.  If it looks a little tight, see if you could split costs with other family and friends.  And remember, there are a lot of simple, delicious, and budget-friendly dishes out there!

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