Yes, There Is A Way To Work Through Family Conflict Mindfully. Here's How

Photo: Maa Hoo

While Thanksgiving grants us an opportunity to give thanks and reunite with loved ones, it also puts us in tight quarters with family members who may may know how to push our buttons. Conflict in families is natural, but to make your holiday a happy one, here are a few practices that can help you move through tension mindfully.

Use the right phrases and avoid generalizations.

While it might be tempting to raise your voice if you feel like no one is hearing you, do your best to keep your tone even and use phrases that diffuse conflict. "Try using phrases such as 'I hear what you're saying' or 'I understand that you're upset' so your family member feels acknowledged," suggests psychologist Nathalie C. Theodore. Elizabeth Lombardo, Ph.D., suggests avoiding generalizations and "you" statements. "'You' statements like 'you never help out' or 'you always sit on the couch' come off as accusations," she says.

Breathe.

It seems so simple, but practicing a little breathwork can make a world of difference. "Just breathe and let it go," says Theodore. "When you're home for the holidays and everyone's at each other's throats, sometimes the best thing you can do is take a deep breath and agree to disagree."

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Focus on being happy and present.

Do you want to be right and perfect or present and happy? Lombardo suggests you aim for the latter. "Your uncle is not going to suddenly change his behavior, and your mother-in-law is not going to suddenly gush over what a great mom you are. Don’t expect them to be perfect. Your mantra can be, 'I accept people for who they are' or 'I get to choose my reaction to my family. And I choose happiness.'"

And on the note of happiness, Lombardo suggests not focusing on convincing your family of how wrong they are. "Focus on being happy, not right," she says. "By this I mean don’t try to convince your family that they are wrong now. Now is not the time to make sure others admit to being wrong. Instead, concentrate on topics and activities that you can engage in together that will bring more joy to you and those around you."

Make self-care a priority.

Last but not least, Theodore suggests you remember to be a little selfish when working through family conflict. "Always remember to make self-care a priority. If too much family togetherness has you feeling stressed, steal some moments away for the sake of your sanity," suggests Theodore. "Go for a walk, check out a yoga class, or call a friend if you need to blow off some steam."

Going through a hard time? Read about how the worst year of one woman's life led to the career of her dreams.

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