top of page
  • Writer's pictureInterval Health

How To Navigate Complicated Family Dynamics During The Holidays

The holidays are just around the corner. For most people, that means spending more time with family. While that can be great, it also can add a lot of stress to your life – especially if you have complicated family dynamics. Everyone likes to joke that their family has “issues” or is “dysfunctional.” But, if you really struggle with certain members of your own, those jokes are far from funny.

Still, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be able to enjoy your holiday season with your entire family. There are things you can do to navigate complicated family dynamics during this time of year that will make the entire season easier on you.

Set Boundaries

One of the most important things you can do before attending a family event this holiday season is to set personal boundaries. Remember, you’re in charge of every decision that directly affects you. Decide where you will and will not go. Determine who you will and will not see. Make clear how long you’ll be staying and things you won’t accept hearing.

Once you decide those things for yourself, talk to your family about them. You might be met with some resistance by a few people. But, for the most part, your loved ones are likely to respect your boundaries to help you feel comfortable.

Hold firm to your boundaries throughout the season. Speak up when someone violates them, or make the choice to walk away.

Focus On What’s Under Your Control

Every member of your family has their own personality. They are who they are, and you can’t control that. While you can tell your loved ones what they should and shouldn’t say to you, you’re probably not going to be able to “change” them as a person. It’s okay if that bothers you, but it shouldn’t be something that ruins your holiday season.

Certain family members’ personalities might not be under your control, but your interactions with them can be. Choose how much you want to talk to them, or what subjects are appropriate. By focusing on things under your control and letting go of things that aren’t, you’ll reduce your stress levels.

Practice Selflessness

It’s easy to get caught up in the “me” aspect of the holidays. Maybe you don’t like certain family members that will be at dinner. Maybe you have to travel to your in-laws’ house for a few days and sleep in a guest room. Are those things ideal? No. But, remember, the holidays aren’t just about you.

You don’t have to like every member of your family (or your spouse’s family). Sometimes people can get so caught up in their own feelings and experiences, even without realizing it, that they ruin the entire season for themselves and those around them.

Do your best to let go of those thoughts and recognize that the holidays are for everyone to enjoy. The less you focus on yourself, the easier it will be to see more positive things.

Take Care of Yourself

Being selfless doesn’t mean ignoring your well-being. If you’re spending a lot of time with your family this season, it’s important to schedule some personal time, too. Self-care should always be a priority, but it’s especially necessary this time of year.

Try to find something to do each day that reduces your stress levels. That could include exercising, meditating, or journaling. By scheduling time for yourself, it will be easier to go back to your family functions feeling more relaxed and less overwhelmed.

Keep in mind what the holidays are really about. Focus on the positive, and use this as a time to connect with the people you love while finding effective ways to navigate complicated family dynamics.


The holidays leave many feeling emotionally exhausted and raw. If you are struggling after the holidays, therapy might help you make sense of the family dynamics that have been tripping you up year after year. This just might be the ideal time for you to make some sense of what you are experiencing and feeling. I offer a complimentary phone consultation to all potential clients. To schedule yours in a matter of seconds, please check here.

To learn more about how counseling can help you manage run away thoughts that fuel anxiety, please click here.


Jennifer Perera is a mom of two boys, a spouse and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She has a private practice in Springfield, New Jersey and also sees clients throughout New Jersey via telehealth. Her passion is helping new moms and dads find their joy again in parenthood through individual and couples counseling. She also runs workshops for new parents, teaching them techniques and strategies to help them have a stronger relationship - built to thrive during the parenthood years. Jennifer specializes in working with parents during the prenatal and postpartum periods and those coping with grief or loss issues surrounding pregnancy.


bottom of page