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10 Ways to Deal With A Dysfunctional Family at Christmas

Last Updated on 2 years by Iva Ursano

It’s getting close to that time of year again. Where we have to all gather around the table for the big family Christmas dinner and celebrate. Yippee! Unfortunately, we aren’t all too excited about this upcoming event. Many of us have to deal with a dysfunctional family at Christmas.

Are you one of them? I am. Don’t feel bad or embarrassed.

Dealing with a dysfunctional family at Christmas

I honestly believe, in this day and age, there are way more dysfunctional families than there are ‘normal and healthy’ ones. Amirite?

I’m no stranger to this. How many of us have declared “Oh I can write a book on what it’s like being in a dysfunctional family?” Yup. I’ve said it too. And I still may do just that.

So the day of the Christmas feast is fast approaching. You’re starting to feel a wee bit of anxiety. Like that pit or knot in your stomach is getting tighter and tighter.

You are totally dreading this day. I feel ya. You wish you could just graciously decline the invitation but you already know that will stir up more trouble so you suck it up and go.

I have good news for you though!! Yay! There are ways to deal with a dysfunctional family at Christmas.

Let me share you with some tips so that this Christmas dinner will have you smiling and enjoying yourself, for real, not pretend.

Now though we discuss Christmas dinner here, you know this goes for ALL the special dinners. Thanksgiving dinner, Easter dinner, Christmas dinner and any other special day you guys celebrate.

(this post may contain affiliate links so if you make a purchase I may make a small commission-affiliate disclosure here)

Not wanting to spend Christmas with family

Who else feels like this? But as I mentioned above, it’s not just Christmas. More and more, people are avoiding family during the holidays for whatever reason but the main reason is that their family is effed up.

For real.

There were always fights at our table. Someone was always yelling about something and usually someone was storming out of the house slamming the door behind them.

Good times.

It got to the point where you literally just braced yourself before walking in the door and trying to mentally prepare yourself for whatever shitstorm was about to take place.

If that’s you, then this blog is for you. Let’s get to it…

How to deal with your dysfunctional family at Christmas

So I’ve come up with 10 ways to deal with your dysfunctional family at Christmas and nowhere does it say “just burn the house down”. Capiche?

1 Prepare yourself mentally

You already know how it’s going to turn out. You already know your least favourite cousin is going to be there. You already know that 4 of the 25 people who are going to be there grind on your last nerve.

Start preparing yourself at least one week ahead of time. Self talk and positive affirmations will go a long way here.

Try ones like: This is temporary. It’s only once a year. I can get through this. I’m stronger and better than them (yes you can say this and not in an egotistical way).

Remind yourself it’s only a couple of hours one day out of 365. You’ll live.

2 Protect yourself

This is my favourite and honestly works like a charm. Don’t think I’m crazy. I promise I’m not and this method works. Just before you have to go to dinner take about 5-15 minutes and sit quietly somewhere alone.

Lock yourself in the bathroom if you have to. Ask the Angels, especially Archangel Michael to wrap you in a protective shield that will keep all negative energy and harm away from you and surround you only with love and protection.

Don’t believe in Angels? You should. You have two around you all the time whether you like it or not.

Just before you walk in the door to Aunt Betty’s house, reinforce this invisible shield and keep imagining it around you every time someone starts to get on your nerves.

3 Smile and ignore

Ya, you can most certainly do that. If there are 25 people at dinner and only 4 get on your last nerve, go hang out with the other 21. No one said you even have to talk to engage with the ones you honestly can’t stand.

Nope. You don’t have to. Thing is, they probably already know you don’t like them anyway so your avoidance of them won’t be a surprise. Just ignore them and their ignorant remarks.

Smile and ignore. That’ll probably irritate them even more but you know the best part of that? It’s their problem, not yours.

4 Keep yourself busy doing other things

Go in the kid’s room and watch movies. Go watch TV with the seniors. Go sit with your favourite Uncle and chat up a storm. Do whatever it takes to not have to interact with the odd 4 people in your dysfunctional family.

If you keep busy doing things that bring you joy, in no time you’ll even forget that Aunt Betty is at it again driving everyone nuts.

You’ll be too busy actually enjoying your time doing things that make you happy.

5 Decline the invite

Now I get this is a hard one to do but you can do it. We used to have huge family dinners at my uncle’s house until one year my dad laid down the law and said we weren’t going anymore.

It was a big blow to the whole family but we stopped going and had a nice family dinner at home with a couple of other random family members.

After dinner, those who wanted to, would then go to my uncle’s for coffee and dessert. Sure there were a few hurt feelings in the beginning but as time went on, people totally understood dad’s reasoning (actually that’s a lie-we had no clue).

You do have a choice to say no and host a nice dinner at your house with the people from your extended dysfunctional family that you actually love and want to be with.

no sign-dealing with a dysfunctional family at christmasPin


6 Don’t take things personally

Honestly, I know. Easier said than done. Trust me I so get that.

But try to keep something in mind. If someone has a problem with you and wants to verbally attack you (like they do every holiday dinner) it’s got nothing to do with you and everything to do with them.

People often act up out of fear, their own insecurities, jealousy and a bunch of other toxic and negative reasons. And none of it is your fault. Remember where it’s coming from.

7 Stand your ground

Has Uncle Henry been getting on everyone’s nerves for far too long now? Did it finally reach a breaking point?

It’s perfectly ok to stand up to Uncle Henry once and for all and tell him no more. Tell him the family is tired of his bulls**t and it’s time to stop.

He’s either gonna say “well f*ck you then*, he may get up and leave (ooph that’s happened a few times in our house) or if he’s a happy drunk he may laugh and say “oh I’m so sorry (we can dream can’t we?).

Whatever the case may be, stand up to him. Damn he’s been ruining dinners for years. Enough is enough!

8 Invite a friend to tag along

You already know there’s gonna be enough food to feed the neighbourhood so grab a friend and drag her/him along.

Family members tend to be on their best behaviour when there is a new body at the table. People will smile more and yell less. And this way, you aren’t stuck listening to Aunt Betty go on and on about whatever drama is going on in her life.

9 Change the subject quickly

Politics?? Oh that’s a big fat HELL no!!!

If someone is talking about taboo topics (politics, religion, etc) put a stop to that nonsense right away if you know a fight will ensue.

There’s no need to ruin a good dinner with topics that escalate into arguments.

10 Take a step back

If an argument is about to start or someone just opened Pandora’s box, instead of getting involved, leave the table or the room immediately.

Super easy to do. Stand up, say ‘excuse me’ and walk away.

Then go find the kids and go play with them or watch TV or if dinner is done and dessert has been eaten already then just leave. You’re a grown up. You can leave when you want.

Just not before you had dessert.

lady eating pie-avoiding family during holidaysPin

Control yourself while dealing with your dysfunctional family at Christmas

You know it really is a sad thing that so many families are torn apart for so many reasons. It’s also so sad that many holidays are ruined because of this.

The most important message I can share here with you, the biggest takeaway for you, is to always try to find joy no matter what.

You’re definitely not gonna be able to fix everything and you can’t change people so don’t even try. The only thing you have control over is yourself and your emotions, how you deal and handle these types of uncomfortable dealings with the dysfunctional family.

Your reaction to any and all of it will either make or break the situation. If you try some of my tips I shared with you, though I can’t promise your Christmas dinner will go off without a hitch but I can almost guarantee that it will be much more pleasing and enjoyable for you and everyone else.

Tis the season to be jolly…

So while there are indeed a few who are avoiding family during holidays, not all of us can do that. But you can certainly try and make it the best, for you and your loved ones.

You can’t argue that Christmas dinner will be a million times better without all the fighting and yelling, amirite? Did you use to partake in all that too? Don’t this year. Be the bigger person and don’t engage.

Not only will you be happier but so will your blood pressure and stress level.

Wouldn’t you rather leave dinner content knowing that it all was so lovely and you have love in your heart instead of racing home in a fit of anger because Aunt Betty did it again!? Remember, you control your emotions, you get to choose.

If you have to deal with a dysfunctional family at Christmas dinner, choose peace over hate, love over anger.

Someone wanna pass down that bottle of wine please?

xo iva xo

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  1. I decline the invite and spend Christmas alone. It doesn’t bother me one bit. This year I plan on cooking a nice meal for myself. Having a peaceful day is more important than spending it with dysfunctional family.

  2. Unfortunately, I don’t have a choice but to go. I’m usually the one that ends up slamming out of the house because my sister can’t keep her mouth shut of her sarcastic, hurtful, smart-mouth remarks. So it’s either I leave or knock her lights out. But this year should be oh so eventful! I’m so overjoyed, I can’t wait. *SIGH* My Mother usually invites my ex-husband, which is fine by me since I know he won’t plan anything at his house for them, but this year he’s bringing his girlfriend also! Yes… I’ve agreed to it only because I don’t want her to spend Christmas alone, however, she’s already made it clear by talking about me behind my back and posting “pot stirring” posts on her Facebook page that I know are aimed at me. She acts like she’ll be putting me out or “stepping on my toes” or “ruining my holiday”. Not even in the slightest. If it’s the only way I can get my ex husband to spend time with his kids, then so be it. It is what it is. She has to have a special “menu” do to an eating disorder and I advised my Mother that we do need to make her feel welcome by making sure we alter the menu to accommodate that fact.
    But yet, my ex husband’s family thinks I’m an a$$hole and treats me like I should have a house dropped on me. I’m not the one that ruined our marriage, he did by cheating, but I somehow got blamed. Interesting.

    1. I’m sorry you have to go through that and that you have to go. I don’t understand that but it’s none of my business.

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