How to Deal with Family Drama Around the Holidays

For many of us, spending time with family during the holidays is something straight out of a Hallmark movie with days filled with comfort and joy. But for others, the holidays with family are scarier than Halloween. From the stress of traveling to the pressure of buying and wrapping gifts, and the fact that many family members can’t be in the same room with each other without a fight erupting, holidays can be stressful!

While you can’t necessarily stop family drama from occurring, there are some simple and effective ways you can deal with it:

Have Realistic Expectations

Learn where everyone’s tolerance is for social situations and time. Be sure to communicate the expected amount of time you will be at each location to family members and to the host.

If there is a moment of emotional responding and plans need to change, that is ok too. Always have a go to bag for unstructured time so that there is no time of wondering what is next. Include fidgets, mini Lego sets, travel size games, something to color or draw.

Expect that people with ADHD will need a break. Identify a location for when you need peace if something gets too overwhelming. Expectations should not change from what they would usually do at home. Kids might not eat at the table so don’t expect them to sit for long periods of time.

Set Your Boundaries

People with ADHD have a tendency to overshare or talk about things you might not discuss at a holiday gathering. Set boundaries about what you will and won’t accept in conversation. Try to keep politics and religion off the table. Choose not to engage in the conversation if it does happen. Take a break and walk away. 

Mindful Eating and Drinking

It takes 20 minutes for the hypothalamus to recognize that you are full. Be aware of what you have already had to eat or drink. Get your first plate of food and then sit for a little while to see if you’re full before going for seconds.

It is easy to get distracted if people are having conversations. One way to engage in mindful eating and drinking is to pay attention to textures and smell. This will allow you to be more focused on what is going on. If there are foods that you should have limited access to, be aware of that and ask that they be put out of sight for you.

If you’re interested in exploring counseling, please reach out to me. I’d love to help your holidays be warm and merry (or at least tolerable!).