Surviving Family Drama during the Holidays


A good way to determine what might trigger emotions for you is to ask yourself, “What pushes my buttons when I get together with my family?”
Keeping in mind that we all act from our own perspective allows you to gain emotional distance from these triggers and their resulting emotions and look at the situation from a more logical viewpoint. What would you tell a friend who was relating her story?

How to Align Your Expectations &
Focus on the Possibilities for the Holiday


Consider your family of origin as a mini-culture to which you belong. Now consider the other cultures you belong to: your own present family, your work, your place of worship. It’s difficult, if not impossible for everyone to get along at all times, let alone have consensus.

Your control over your family of origin is limited of course, as it is for us all, but you can control how you respond to the challenges that arise.

We all frame our thoughts in a certain way which affect how we respond to a situation:

Some people see an event as a problem; others view it as a learning experience
Some people focus on detail; others focus on the “big picture”
Some people focus on what’s happening to them personally and others focus on what’s best for the team (or family) and
Some people thrive on conflict while others seek to negotiate conflict.

You get the picture; the way others in your family frame their thoughts may be in direct opposition to yours, but recognizing this and appreciating their uniqueness allows for a more serenity during the time you’re together.

Self care is especially important during the holidays. Be a role model and establish your own boundaries – then follow through! Self care can take many forms; for instance, if staying with family causes you stress, make hotel reservations for the length of your stay.

Awareness of activities that bring you pleasure is one way to ensure your own self care. Whether you’re staying close to home or visiting out of town family, it’s important to invest in your own well being. Devoting time to quiet meditation, indulging in a luxurious massage or spa treatment, enjoying nature – even maintaining your exercise routine (modified is OK!) helps keep you healthy during times of stress.

Just as important as self care activities that bring you pleasure, is the avoidance of other activities that may not be in your best interest long-term, like excessive drinking, enjoying food that’s less nutritious, and spending excessively, to name but a few activities that look particularly attractive when you’re feeling vulnerable or stressed.

Perhaps the most empowering form of self care during the holidays is selecting those with whom you want to spend your time. Develop an awareness of those who support and nurture you; they may not be your “family of origin”, but they can be your “family of choice”!

Family of Origin Therapy

If you find that family of origin issues are too overwhelming to handle on your own or they’re affecting your present family, your spouse or children, therapy may be the answer.

Your therapist can help you examine your family background, its communication style, traditions, and patterns of behavior, thought and emotions and help you gain a new perspective.

Escape to Barbados – indeed escape of any kind – is not always possible, or in your best interest. Resolve to change your approach to the holiday season and lead the way in leaving family drama behind!

Article contributed by
Advanced Member

Mary Kay Cocharo


Mary Kay Cocharo, LMFT, Certified Imago Relationship Counselor and Master Encounter-centered Couples Therapist

11340 W. Olympic Blvd. Suite 210, Los Angeles,  California 90064 310.828.2624

Location: Los Angeles, CA
Credentials: LMFT, Other
Specialties: Communication Problems, Couples/Marital Issues, Dating/Being Single Support
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