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Not letting that family gathering overwhelm you


Last updated 11/21/2019 at 3:06pm

Special to Village News

The holiday season is coming which for many can mean family get-togethers. It would be wonderful if every family gathering was a Norman Rockwell-type scene but, unfortunately, most families are a little less than Rockwell perfect.

If a big family event is approaching, there’s a good chance that while some family members may be looking forward to it, it may also be producing stress and anxiety. There are a number of reasons for such feelings, but there are ways to lessen that stress.

One common problem is that people change. They may no longer quite fit the same image that parents, siblings and other family members still carry with them. Some family members might still see that little child or immature teen from years ago and find it hard to recognize how the person has grown and matured. When family members can’t recognize all the changes that have influenced other member’s growth, it can be annoying. And it can be difficult in a short holiday visit to really communicate much to distant family members, since they often underestimate others and are more interested in themselves than in learning how people have changed.

Family visits also bring with them family history. There may be old disagreements or awkward relationships that now come up again. Past family arguments or misunderstandings may resurface.

A person can also feel stressed that they haven’t met family expectations. Recent job problems, financial issues or relationship difficulties can leave them feeling insecure knowing they aren’t presenting the image or results that the family had expected.

So how to deal with all this dissonance? Start by recognizing that this feeling of stress, whatever the source, is a very normal reaction. Next, identify what about that family gathering is creating the anxiousness, then plan ways to avoid those anxiety-producing issues. Are there certain situations or people that should be avoided? Maybe the answer is to simply accept that the holiday won’t be a wonderful time as hoped.

Instead, try to seek out people and situations that will make the visit more enjoyable. Don’t bring up old problems or current issues, if that helps. The goal is to make the visit as pleasant and stress-free as possible.

And if such a goal seems impossible, consider making the visit shorter or avoiding it all together. Some issues simply may not be fixable. Don’t let old problems ruin the holiday enjoyment.

Counseling Corner is provided by the American Counseling Association. Send comments and questions to [email protected] or visit the ACA website at


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