3 Tips For Navigating Family Dynamics During the Holidays

Navigating how to deal, or not deal, with family during the holiday can be difficult. The holidays are frequently touted as an overly idealized time to be grateful for family while creating memories and spending lots of time together. There isn’t anything inherently wrong with those things. However for many people, this is not reality. As a result, those of us who find that our holidays look different than the “standard messaging” might find that we need a little support. At Genesis Counseling of South Tampa, we can help with that through family counseling, counseling about family, and other family relationship support.

Whether you have a complicated relationship with family, with holidays, or with both, learning to navigate this time with kindness and empathy towards yourself and others is not only possible but it is important. In the meantime, let’s discuss our top 3 tips for navigating family dynamics during holidays.


A lot of times, it’s easy to forget that grief plays a role in many more scenarios besides loss and death. There are a variety of reasons that grief may crop up during the holidays and identifying is is the first step to moving past it. Moving through grief rather than allowing it to stagnate during the season can help to remove a barrier between you and loved ones that can prevent connection and make holidays even more difficult.

Grief can become present during the holidays as we grow older and realize how idealized and sensationalized the holiday season has become while so many across the globe are suffering. It can also show up as the result of unmet expectations around what holidays should look like between family members. Perhaps you’re grieving a timeline you once placed on your life and the holidays seem to highlight milestones you’ve yet to celebrate. Feelings of grief around these and more are normal and okay to experience. Accepting the moments of grief rather than fighting them will help them to flow past rather than linger. Read our post on coping with holiday grief for more support.

Release Guilt

Guilt during the holidays is quite common as we’re often made to feel like we should spend more time, spend more money, spend more energy no matter what we’ve spent already. It’s incredibly important to remember that you have the freedom to define what holidays mean to you and you have the ability to discard responsibility of anyone else’s expectations.

If spending time with family and friends is important to you during the holiday, its okay to still have personal boundaries around your time and communicate that to your family.

If treating your family to gifts and experiences is important to you, its perfectly okay to choose gifts and experiences that don’t place a financial burden on you to deal with alone in the weeks and months to follow.

Sometimes our guilt is a result of expectations we’ve taken on out of a lack of communication with our loved ones. It’s important to let the people you love know how you’re feeling and find ways that work for everyone to celebrate and express love. Other times, guilt is placed on us from our family and in these situations, it is important to create boundaries that protect you from actions that you can’t control so that you can enjoy a guilt free holiday season.

Indulge in Goodness

Finally, give yourself permission to indulge in all good things, even the smallest ones. Once we’ve started to move through the more difficult parts of navigating the holidays with loved ones it creates more space for us to enjoy the many good moments sprinkled in between.

This might be an excellent cup of coffee and heartwarming conversation with a family member you haven’t seen all year. Perhaps it’s watching the joy on the face of your small cousins, nieces, nephews, or your own children. Maybe it’s soaking in a beautiful experience on a weekend trip with your chosen family during the holiday season. Whatever good moments you find, allow yourself to soak them in with the reminder that many things can exist at once. Although not all parts of navigating the holidays may be easy, there just might be many parts that are so, so good.

Ultimately, you can develop the skills to deal with the less pleasant parts of holidays with family while also deeply cherishing the beautiful moments. You have the power to create a chosen family if it’s safer for you to separate from your given family. The holidays are completely within your power to define whether it be by tradition, love, adventures, food, or any number of other ways to make them special.

If you’re looking for support either as an individual or as a family, feel free to reach out to us at Genesis Counseling. We’d love to support you through the holiday season and beyond.

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