No family is alike. Each one comes with their own unique history, traditions, culture — and yes, family drama.
Most of us feel pressure to create the perfect family dynamic. We want to be happily smiling as we sit around the dinner table, sharing our experiences and fully understanding and respecting each other’s perspectives.
But, that often isn’t the case — and that’s okay.
Remember: Family Drama Is Normal
No family is perfect, and most families experience some type of drama.
The level of drama is different for every family and is often experienced differently within the family. While you might think family occasions are frustrating and stressful, your brother or sister may fully enjoy them and not understand why you see them as a challenge.
As you go into a family experience — whether it be a family reunion, vacation, or holiday gathering — remember that you are entitled to feel exactly how you feel about it. Don’t beat yourself up if you find the occasion stressful. Your feelings are valid, and it’s normal if your family dynamic comes with challenges.
Instead of getting upset that your family can’t meet the impossible standards society has set for them, consider how you can use methods to decrease the negative feelings that family drama can stir up.
6 Healthy Ways to Deal with Family Drama
Here are a few healthy ways to deal with family drama. Use these tips the next time you attend a holiday gathering or family event.
#1) Set realistic expectations.
We all know the saying, “You can’t pick your family.” Well, it’s even more true to say, “You can’t control your family.”
You will never be able to get your family to be who you want them to be. They are unique individuals who are experiencing life on their terms — which may not be the same as your terms. As you go into a family gathering, remember that you can’t change or control your family members.
Don’t expect them to be different this time. Instead, anticipate the things that often happen so when they occur, you aren’t shocked or surprised.
#2) Get in a good headspace before family events.
If you walk into a family event with a heavy weight of frustration or stress on your shoulders, it will likely carry through the rest of the occasion. When you have a family event coming up, schedule time beforehand to get in a good headspace.
Avoid stressful situations prior to the event, and instead, engage in activities that naturally produce positive feelings and emotions.
- Do a mini meditation
- Go for a walk
- Do something creative
- Practice yoga
- Take a long bath
- Watch a funny movie
- Write in your gratitude journal
#3) Identify your triggers.
When we say that our family knows how to “push our buttons,” we are really saying they know our triggers.
Triggers are topics or situations that release emotions and activate your nervous system. When a trigger is hit, your heart rate may speed up, your body may tense up, and you may get ready to fight or flight.
The best way to combat a trigger is to identify it. Before you have a family interaction, spend some time thinking about what issues or situations push your buttons and why they upset you. Identifying the trigger and understanding why it signals stress in your body is a good way to take away the power from the trigger and feel less upset if someone in your family pushes your buttons.
#4) Pick your battles wisely — and don’t try to win them.
You may want to jump into battle mode if an old argument arises or one of your triggers is hit — especially if you have a family member who loves getting you to react. But, remember that not every battle is worth having.
Most fights won’t change anything, so ignore the comments, change the subject, and reserve your energy for things that have real consequences. If you do find that something is meaningful enough to address, avoid a fight by:
- Using “I’ statements that reflect your opinion, feelings, and experience. Avoid using “you” statements that can feel accusatory.
- Be open minded. Everyone experiences the world differently. Try to imagine how the experiences of the other person has led them to their perspective.
- Don’t try to win. Instead, simply show your perspective without the goal of changing minds.
#5) Decide to opt out.
We are often taught that family is everything. We should stand by their side no matter what.
But, this isn’t always the best advice. While yes, you may need to invest time and energy into maintaining healthy and positive relationships with your family, there are times when you need boundaries.
Family drama can be addictive and can lead to codependent relationships. Remember that it’s up to you to establish boundaries that feel healthy for you. You are in control of your time, energy, and mental health. If you need space, take it.
#6) Know it’s not about you.
Finally, there is one important thing to remember as you navigate family dramas. It’s not about you.
While family drama can feel personal, it’s imperative that you separate yourself from the situation. When people treat you badly, it’s rarely about you. It’s usually about them. Most people don’t have the tools to cope with their own negative emotions so they project it on others.
If a family drama opens up, don’t take it personally, and know the other person is probably struggling with their own challenges and emotions.
Get The Skills to Deal with Family Drama
Our family interactions have a huge impact on the rest of our lives. If you find that your family dramas are causing you excessive stress and negative feelings that are carrying on into your every day, get help.
You don’t need to carry the weight of family dysfunction on your shoulders.
There are healthy ways to navigate difficult family relationships, cope with stressful family situations, and heal from family traumas. Seek support so you can discover the best path for you to move past the family drama and become the best version of yourself.
See how individual therapy or family therapy can help you get the tools you need to reduce family stress and put you on a path to more happiness and satisfaction with yourself and your loved ones. Download our therapy information packet for more information or schedule an intro session today.