Tips for Communicating with Family During the Holiday Season

The holiday season can be a stressful time for many reasons, including increased obligations to spend time with family members. You may not get along with family members or the political climate may be increasing family tension. Communicating with family members during the holiday season can be challenging. In this article, we aim to highlight strategies for communicating with family members during the holidays and also provide self-care recommendations.

Strategies for Communicating with Family

Here are strategies that can help when dealing with challenging family members during holiday gatherings:

  • Manage expectations and adjust your mindset
    • Setting very high expectations for a family gathering can result in disappointment or even resentment. In contrast, anticipating the worst possible outcome for a family gathering can contribute to high levels of anxiety and other strong emotions. Try to consider what an average family gathering may look like and prepare for that.
  • Set a time limit on interactions
    • You can keep interactions with family members short by taking breaks to use the restroom, help out in the kitchen, or spend time with pets. You can also set a time limit on the family interaction by scheduling a few hours to meet up for dinner, rather than participating in an all-day interaction.
  • Emphasize shared interests
    • It can be helpful to find common ground with family members and discussed shared interests and activities.
  • Have a list of neutral topics to discuss
    • If you know certain topics (e.g., politics, religion, social justice) may lead to arguments and high emotions, you may instead want to discuss neutral topics (e.g., trips, work, new hobbies). It is okay to change the subject in order to protect yourself and your energy.
  • Seek support
    • Talking with a partner or another family member can be helpful for sharing concerns or setting boundaries for upcoming family gatherings.


Amidst the stressors of the holiday season, self-care is important. Take time to rest and relax, especially before or after a family gathering. Self-care may look like:

  • Engaging in a hobby or interest
  • Taking a nap
  • Deep breathing
  • Taking a bath
  • Engaging in a mindfulness exercise


Although the holiday season can be an exciting and joyous time, family gatherings can be stressful for many reasons. Strategies to help engage in challenging family gatherings include: managing expectations, setting time limits, emphasizing shared interests, having a list of neutral topics to discuss, and seeking support. Moreover, it is important to engage in self-care, especially before and after a family gathering.

If you are struggling to navigate the stress of family gatherings this holiday season and would like additional support, providers at Upside Therapy are here to help. If you are interested in services, please call 972-519-1692 or email