I know this may seem a bit late as one of the main food gathering holidays has just passed. But, I figure late rather than never is probably the best policy.
We all have a family, blood, chosen, or otherwise, to meet our need for meaningful connection. No matter if the family is self manufactured or imposed by blood, the fact remains that even if you love them to pieces and enjoy being around them, they will likely get on your nerves and you will get on theirs. That’s why I decided to give you my 5 tips to dealing with family situations over the holidays (so you don’t--figuratively-- kill each other).
Pick a presentation strategy. My first bit of advice is to pick your strategy. This means sitting on your own and figuring out what works well for and resonates with you. Are you going to be truthful? Aloof? Agreeable? Confrontational? Whatever your desire, what ever fits your decision, try to pick how you want to go into various conversations that we all know will come up. For example, I am Nigerian American, first generation to the U.S. I know that I can expect family to ask me about when I will finally get married. It’s just the thing (I know lots of people across cultures experiences this, but there is something extra intense about Nigerians. There is a sense of entitlement to the information. More than that, there can be a complete disregard of what you want for yourself with the bullying/imposing nature. Not to mention that you can be held up in a 10 minute prayer focusing on getting you married and having that marriage be successful and child producing...but I digress. Let’s get back to the strategy at hand.). Since you undoubtedly have the best knowledge of your family and yourself, what strategy are you willing to use? Will you tell the truth and be okay with a long conversation offering explanations? Will you be agreeable to keep people out of your business or end uncomfortable conversations earlier? Or will you be so aloof and or confrontational that the question never has the chance to be asked? Picking what you want to do on various situations that you KNOW will come up can not only help you reduce feelings of anxiousness, but can also help you learn even more about yourself.
Take breaks as necessary. This task requires you to be mindful of yourself and what you need. This means paying attention to yourself and not just the drama around you. Your lovely uncle may have asked one question too many, or your aunt may have thrown just a tad too much shade in your direction, LEAVE! If you aren’t ready, willing, or able to get into it with the family, you may need to take a breath and a break. In advance of seeing the folks, think up some strategies you already use that are helpful in helping you identify how you are feeling, calming down, and taking care of yourself. You need to be your number one priority. By taking care of yourself, you ensure that the holidays are what you want without having all the extra you wish would disappear for a year. Taking a break could be stuffing a little extra food/gum/water in your mouth to keep those shady ass daggers from being produced and distributed, or finding a reason to leave the house early. If you’re traveling a little further, it may also behoove you to consider if a hotel, Airbnb, or a friends couch may need to be part of your family gathering plan. Escape plans can be too necessary!
Bringing someone or nah. Sometimes inviting a friend, lover, or whateva can help by adding a buffer to what could otherwise be too much. But really think on this, because depending on the gender presentation of who you bring and what that person means to you, it could also throw your ass in the deep end of those “When are you getting married?” conversations. Pro Tip: If you choose to bring someone with you, PREPARE THEM! Don’t have them walking into the family drama blind to what’s going on or to your needs. Give them all the info you feel they need to know to navigate those shark infested familial waters. Let them know why, other than for their lovely company, you are bringing them. If you are looking for a buffer, it's hard for them to act in that capacity if they spend all their time away from you.
Knowing when not to even show up. Toxic families are real. Just like you may need to divest yourself of horrible romantic relationships, you may also need to chuck the deuces to toxic familial connections. I didn’t say it was easy, I said it may be necessary.
Try tips 1-4 first. If all else fails, bring your own handcuffs and keep your hands off sharp objects!
But seriously, It’s important to recognize your level of safety with your family, not just physical but also mental and emotional. Do a self safety check. Notice if you can be you in all you glory, or if you feel the need to put a damper on certain aspects of yourself to guarantee physical, emotional, or mental safety in specific situations and conversations with the fam.
Sometimes our families of origin aren’t a haven of support and safety. That’s okay! Just recognize what you have, and make your choices accordingly.
What strategy will you be using this holiday season? Comment below!