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5 Pointers for Avoiding Toxic Holiday Family Drama

Updated: Nov 28, 2023

Will there be family drama this holiday season? Yes. The key is to not LET IT TURN TOXIC inside of you. Vashti's House is helping you make YOURSELF at home, so that no matter what is going on around you, you are living in peace, expectancy and belonging.

Here are five pointers to help you maintain a healthy mental and emotional equilibrium during the holidays. Pick one or two that resonate with you and keep it close to your heart, so when the drama begins to unfold, you're ready!

#1. Remember that there will be drama and it's ok.

Your family is not necessarily any more horrible or dysfunctional than the next family. You're together aren't you? That's a start. People in every family have unhealed wounds and when those wounds are touched, there is often a "big emotion" that follows. This "big emotion" can present as an outburst of anger, or crying, or it can look like withdrawing and becoming more passive-agressive or illusive.

This often happens during the holidays because this is a time when people get together who often don't spend much time with each other throughout the year. This multiplies opportunities for triggers and "big emotions".

The people in your family are also in varying degrees of growth and development. Sometimes people experience emotions that are disproportionate to the situation because they lack the understanding or ability to handle what is happening around them. The bigger the family gatherings, and the more relationships dynamics that are happening, the more the feelings of being overwhelmed and out of control will increase. This is very normal. But be encuraged, being challenged to grow and heal is actually a good thing and why family togetherness is so important.

#2. Before going to any family functions, as much as you can, be rooted in the knowledge and understanding of your own value and worth. Your own value and worth will be the launching point for managing your own actions.

Do not expect that grandpa will be more sensitive. He won't. Or Aunt Betty will be less rude. She won't. Or cousin Danny will show up on time. He won't.

Instead of "hoping things will be different", decide you'll be different. Deciding to not take things personally and remembering that others' rudeness, insensitivity, and disrespect is because of who they are, not because of who you are, will help protect you from becoming more wounded and empower you to make decisions that protect your value.

#3 When and if you have big emotions, let yourself process the FEELINGS as soon as you can.

When you feel triggered and want to lash out, or withdraw, or make that snarky comment to put someone in their place, take a deep breath and stay calm. Instead of reacting the way you feel in the moment, begin thinking about creating the space you'll need to process this feeling.

You're not looking to find time to gossip and say horrible things about the other person, instead, you're finding time to process your own feelings concerning the situation. What was said or done? Why did it hurt? Where is that pain coming from? Talk to yourself, pray, sit with a family member you can trust, take a walk, or journal. You are processing your feelings, not unraveling generations of family dynamics. Remember, when you change, and stop the toxic cycle inside yourself, it promotes positive change around you.

#4 When someone else has a big emotion, don't respond with a reactive big emotion.

Stay calm and say nothing. Right now you are engaging your mind, not your potentially wounded heart, or your fear, or feelings of being out of control.

If you need to say something to someone, start by validating their emotions. Empathize. Thank the person for sharing their feelings. Ask clarifying questions. Otherwise, just give the person space to have their moment. Don't take it personally.

If it is abusive, give yourself permission to leave the room or leave the house or leave the celebration. This will create more drama... but it won't be toxic. Toxic drama is the kind that protects abusive behavior. However, to avoid this, give them the head's up beforehand, that if a certain kind of behavior (yelling, name calling, hitting, or any kind of abuse) happens at all, you're out. This is a personal standard and one you are allowed to set. The abusive behavior could be directed at you or someone else. It doesn't matter. You are in charge of your value system and you are allowed to set your personal expectations however you choose. You can't control how other's choose to live their life, but you can choose what you'll take part in.

#5 Focus on the positive.

Even if people were triggered because someone else got more presents, or the favorite family recipe wasn't used, or the kids were too rowdy, or certain people never help with the clean up- train your brain to meditate on the fun times you had. We are hardwired to remember negative experiences over positive experiences and that is what we'll probably want to rehearse over and over again after the holidays.


Instead, rehearse the wonderful food you ate, the meaningful conversations, the beauty of the season, the unexpected growth in yourself and others. Make the experience work FOR you whatever it is. You can't control your crazy family, but you can manage your own thoughts and where you will dwell.

If there is processing that needs to be done for creating healtheir relationship boundaries in the future, think about that later. Maybe even weeks later. This gives you the time to process your emotions, focus on the good, and prioritize what is really important.

Have a wonderful holiday season and cherish the times you have with each other. And visit us for some healing and helpful holiday gifts!

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