Deal With Family Holiday Stress In Unique Ways


To Grandmother’s House

Deal With Family Holiday Stress In Unique Ways

Family Holidays are wonderful. It fills us with warmth and love and reminds us of tradition. We look forward to being together with our loved ones and experiencing the joy of the season.

Ok, having said all that, there can also be some family trials and tribulations that can occur at this of year that are brought on by holiday stress. Most likely, these are related to the way your relatives make you feel about yourself.

When we walk through the door of a childhood home we can revert back to being the child we were. There can be the Ghosts of Christmas Past confronting us whether we like it or not.

Family stress takes on several shapes. Maybe you have critical mother, maybe there’s a competitive sister, or an emotionally distant father. While these family roles are tolerable during the year, somehow the expectations during the Holidays accentuate old hurts.

Even if you already recognized how to take charge of your life, when you enter your family’s stratosphere, it’s a whole new zone from your daily life.

A Unique Solution to Family Stress

One of the most effective ways to prepare yourself to deal with the reentry into the family dynamic during this time of year is to play a little game with yourself; become a new character.

Why not become an anthropologist? (Anthropologists are scientists who enter a culture in order to study the culture and gain understanding about the dynamics of how that culture works.)

As the scholar / anthropologist  who has been assigned the mission of studying the culture of your family, you enter the family with the task of observation from a distant perspective.

The holidays bring out the best and the worst in families and as a distant observer you would be able to see the positive and negative aspects of the culture. However, understand that you must, as a scientist, keep your bias out of the equation.

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Three Steps to Stress-Free Study

In order to be a good anthropologist, you have to understand what you’re looking for. Let’s look at these three steps that keep you on track with keeping your objective approach to your family:

  1. Observe the culture’s dynamics. Often it is useful to notice what are the different roles assigned to the members of the culture and how they play out that role. Does your mom go into waitress mode and serve the men? How does your competitive sister speak to everyone?
  1. Notice if there are any implicit rules that the culture lives by. Implicit rules are the rules you just “know” but they are never talked about. For example, “we never talk about Aunt Betty’s alcoholism” or “Dad has the final word.”
  1. Become aware of the culture’s communication patterns. Can one member of the culture talk to the other directly or is an intermediary necessary? Are there “cliques” in the culture among whom communication is easier?

What do you do with all those observations? Learn from them. Try to model your own responses and reactions to fit the patterns you’re observing that goes along with the old adage, “When in Rome…”

By becoming a scientist, an anthropologist, you are able to create distance between yourself and the family dynamics that can shield you from the hurt. It allows you to stay above the fray and may also help you to gain insight into how you became who you are.

Further, these observations allow you to prepare yourself with solutions of how you can best protect yourself from feeling frustrated by your family. After all, while you may love your family dearly, you can only control yourself and your own reactions to them.

Dr. Ines K. Roe has been helping women in transition rediscover themselves for over 20 years. If you’ve been feeling unfulfilled, are frustrated with your sense of accomplishment in midlife, or simply need guidance on your path to holistic well being, join her ecourses.
By |2016-10-18T00:32:59+00:00December 15th, 2014|Emotions, Family, Life Tools, Relationships|12 Comments


  1. Kim Tackett December 15, 2014 at 3:56 pm - Reply

    Being an anthropologist is a great idea…I may have to employ this one, especially as we’re changing things up this year.

  2. Tam Warner Minton December 15, 2014 at 4:20 pm - Reply

    My post grad is sociology, so I think this is GREAT! A very unique way of looking at the stress that comes with family.

  3. Audrey Van Petegem December 15, 2014 at 5:20 pm - Reply

    I find this a very unique and interesting way at looking at family dynamics! Thanks for sharing.

  4. Janie Emajs December 15, 2014 at 7:16 pm - Reply

    I always wanted to be an anthropologist. So I guess now if my chance.

  5. Ruth Curran December 15, 2014 at 8:09 pm - Reply

    I love this idea Ines. Being an anthropologist could be useful in all kinds of situations like work or groups or friends!

  6. Carol Cassara December 15, 2014 at 10:21 pm - Reply

    I know a lot of people who could benefit from that kind of distant view, but boy, it’s hard to pull off.

  7. Roslyn Tanner Evans December 17, 2014 at 2:45 pm - Reply

    I loved anthropology in undergrad, so will take this on. Great idea.

  8. Meryl Hershey Beck December 17, 2014 at 9:51 pm - Reply

    Great tips and ideas. I know family stress can be very hard during the holidays or any time of year. Thanks for sharing.

  9. tina December 18, 2014 at 12:43 am - Reply

    Very interesting use of the word “anthropologist”. I would never have associated that with family. But you are so right: it’s digging and finding the good (and the not so good). What a great blog to highlight others this holiday season.

  10. Lorii Abela December 17, 2014 at 9:51 pm - Reply

    Thanks for sharing, Ines. Great tips are appreciated.

  11. Carele December 17, 2014 at 10:23 pm - Reply

    A very great way to see things and important to do this exercise.

  12. A. Lynn Jesus December 22, 2014 at 12:24 am - Reply

    What a great way to add some distance for perspective. Too often we fall into patterns immediately with family. This new observation strategy can be very enlightening! Great tip!

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