12 Survival Strategies for (Dreaded) Family Gatherings

And it begins! The season of many holiday festivities, including the often-dreaded family gatherings. I shared my survival strategies at this time last year. The list morphed out of conversations I had with friends, colleagues and coaching clients, all of whom had similar holiday concerns.

As we all know, siblings are not always best friends (or friends at all, for that matter), parents and children (both young and adult) often have opposing opinions on myriad issues (this year, especially politics), and then there is the dynamic of putting a diverse group together in which several people may be imbibing a little or a great deal, and the event can spell disaster – arguments, hurt feelings, coarse words … the list goes on. Dozens of movies have been made about this, many of them highly successful because so many people can relate.

Anyone, in any social situation, can benefit from these simple strategies. Certainly not long-term fixes, but they can help you navigate precarious events without bleeding wounds (so to speak) and hold some semblance of peace. So, here they are again, back by popular demand!

  1. Do a centering meditation/prayer in the morning to set your tone for the day.
  2. If you are the host, pre-plan meals and ask others to help you shop or prepare – this is not the time to be a kitchen martyr.
  3. Make time for some kind of physical activity – a walk, a run, a hike (alone or with others you enjoy)
  4. Spend time with little children – retreat into imaginary play or quietly read a book together.
  5. Look for opportunities to spend one-on-one time with family members you enjoy.
  6. Attempt to view the entire affair as if you are watching characters in a movie – this is called “using the observer’s mind” and allows you a degree of emotional separation from the dynamics.
  7. Be aware of moments of judgment (you judging someone or someone judging you). Rather than react, pause and use an open-eyed meditation to release your feelings.
  8. Hold your comments for your journal – if you feel anger or frustration towards someone, write him/her a letter in your journal before you go to bed and say what you need to say to the page rather than the person.
  9. If you are staying at someone’s home, retreat to your room for a half hour and re-group.
  10. Put on a movie and invite others to watch it with you … or not …
  11. If interaction is getting out of hand, quietly beg tiredness and retreat to bed; or simply fad from the scene. (You may not even be missed and be grateful for that!)
  12. Acknowledge to yourself that the situation is temporary, people are who they are even if you wish they were different, and the only person you have control over is You.

Remember to keep breathing – good, deep, belly breaths release tension naturally – and when it’s all over, pat yourself on the back for surviving without incident!

Many blessings for a peaceful, holiday season,



Author: Plynn Gutman

Plynn Gutman is a certified coach with a refreshing and holistic approach to achieving an Integrated Life. Specialized retreats, workshops and classes are all a part of Plynn’s wide array of resources that she offers along with useful life lessons, tips and advice through her blog. A writer at heart, with several titles available, Plynn's variety of work appeals to everyone.

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