There’s a brisk chill is in the air, and in certain parts of the country the first snowflakes are falling. Beautiful lights and decorations adorn many downtown buildings, and the comforting scents of your favorite foods will soon be wafting out from kitchens. The holidays are approaching.

As the holidays near, we know this holiday season that often brings joy can occasionally deliver an underlying sense of dread. Why? Because spending time with family members who are toxic can be taxing and heartbreaking.

If you have toxic relationships within your family, here are some tips to ensure as much peace as possible for yourself during these next few weeks.

Exhausted couple drinking coffee in a kitchen


Know that you are not responsible for anyone else’s bad behavior. While you can’t control anyone else, you can control your response to how they behave. Whether your trigger is a critical parent, a competitive sibling, or a mouthy aunt, you don’t have to tolerate anyone’s negativity. The success or opinions of others doesn’t need to have power over your enjoyment this season or your sense of self.

Personal Space

If your childhood home or the people in it are triggers, consider staying somewhere other than your parents’ house. Knowing you have a safe place to escape to can be a powerful tool during the holiday season. When things get sticky you might not decide to leave, but the opportunity to (knowing you have a haven waiting) may help you remain calm. Even if you spend most of your time with family, a few minutes of your own can be a sanity-saver. If you have your own personal space, the separation may allow you to wind down and recharge from any overstimulating interactions during the day.

Make a Plan

No need to concoct a master plan to finally tell off your overbearing mother or show your brother exactly who would win a fight. If you have an unresolved conflict, a holiday gathering may not be the best place to hash it out. However, you should have a plan in place to keep yourself from unraveling if things get tough. Whether your calm place is a short walk, singing a song in your head, or a breathing ritual, remind yourself when to use it. Long before you greet your family, consider the things that bother you and how you want to react to them this year.

Be Realistic

Holiday miracles might occur, but you shouldn’t expect a difficult family member to suddenly undergo a personality change this season. Holding out hope for unrealistic expectations can be a trigger for family arguments. Whether your family argues, overreacts, or criticizes, accepting the way things are may give you permission to let certain situations roll off your back. After all, being with your family is a temporary event, and you don’t need to take their negativity with you when you leave.

Remember Why You Are There

If you showed up to the family gathering, you likely have a reason you want to be there. Consider what those reasons are and try to embrace them. Perhaps this is your only chance to see distant family, or maybe you enjoy recreating memories and following traditions. Try to keep your mind on the reasons you enjoy the holidays instead of dwelling on the burdens they also bring.

Let it Go

While the chorus of a popular Disney song might be permanently stuck in your head, the sentiment remains the same. Do your best not to absorb family toxicity and bring it back into the rest of your life for weeks to come.

If you do bring it home, find a healthy way to rid yourself of any baggage you bring back. Whether it’s a relaxing day at a spa or a night out venting to your closest friend, choose a ritual to let everything go. Release the emotions you have gathered, rebuild your energy, and get on with your life.

A few small adjustments can ensure you protection over excessive negativity this holiday season. You know who you are and what drives your happiness, so allow yourself what you need this holiday season and do your best to let the rest go.