Spending time with family during the Holidays can be a magical time. But when you have to spend time with family members that are toxic, it can become quite stressful. So how do you survive the Holidays with a dysfunctional family? How do you make it a magical time for your children in spite of it? Trust me when I say itís not easy, but it can be done.

I am going to be honest and let you know that I suffer from anxiety. Being in settings where I am surrounded by too many people Ė whether they are likeable or not Ė can be stressful for me. So during the Holidays, I make it a point to spend time with the family members who lift my spirits, and have my and my childrenís best interests at heart and really focus on them.

I know what youíre going to say. Sometimes doing this is not an option, and like so many, youíll be forced to spend time with people you would never be caught dead with were it not the Holidays. Youíll be forced to visit that aunt or uncle you donít get along with. Youíll be forced to sit down for a two-hour meal with the sibling you canít stand. Youíll be forced to decide which one of your divorced parents youíre spending Christmas Day with. Youíll have to listen to your uncle make inappropriate jokes. And even if you arenít suffering from anxiety like me, your stress level will certainly go up.

Hereís my take. If you are an adult, making decisions that are in favour of you and your childrenís well-being should be your priority. Donít let anyone decide what event, get-together, or party, you need to go to. Make a list of the people you want to see and make it happen. You get to decide how much contact to have with certain family members. You owe it to yourself and to your children to do what is right for you.

However, if there is really no way around seeing certain difficult individuals, here are a few simple rules to follow to help ensure a happy Holiday season for you and your family:

  • Simple chatter is vital. Try to have fun ďsurfaceĒ conversations. You donít want to come across as reclusive but you donít need to be deeply involved in every conversation.
  • Set boundaries. Donít create more friction by bringing up painful things from the past. No one wins when that happens, especially during the Holidays. If something needs to be discussed, wait until the New Year.
  • Donít overdo it with alcohol. You might end up saying something youíll regret or look like a fool.
  • Do not lose control, especially in front of your children. This oneís hard, especially if your mom leans in and asks why youíve put on some extra weight! A simple reply like: ďIím just making sure Iím extra warm for the winter,Ē is as far as the conversation should go. You may want to argue that she should accept you for who you are along with a few choice words, but donít do it. Be the bigger person, suck it up, and wait for a more appropriate time. You and your children donít need to be put through that kind of experience at Holiday time.
  • Talk to someone you can trust. It is crucial that you speak to a loved one, a close friend, or confidant after youíve endured a stressful family gathering. Youíll get to say everything you wanted to. Venting can decrease your stress level, and youíll be able to reconnect with like-minded people. This also helps to avoid building up anger toward a relative that could ultimately lead to an outburst next Christmas!


Crossing my fingers that Iíll be able to follow my own advice during the Holidays for both my own well-being and that of my children. Best of luck to all you super moms out there, too!