The Best Advice to Love Holiday Time with Your Family

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Everyone has a dysfunctional family! Everyone! These 10 tips will help you love spending holiday time with your family ... even the difficult ones. #FamilyGathering #Holidays #DysfunctionalFamily #WWGGG

It’s almost here! Many of you may be traveling as you read this.

Social media is full of goal setting and planning posts to make this year the very best holiday ever.

But as I talk to friends and friends of friends for some of you the hardest part of celebrating the holidays is the mandatory extended family get together.

Oh sure, everyone puts their perfectly posed pictures online wanting everyone to believe their family is the exception. Forced smiles hide the fact that several people in the group … drive you crazy!

It’s okay. You can admit it.

Many of us have family members we’ve labeled the…

Political Corrector

And those are just the adults.

When you add the children and you get the…

Out of Control
Tantrum Thrower
Annoying and Obnoxious

It’s almost enough to make you consider avoiding the festivities altogether. In fact, there are plenty of articles out there that will encourage you to do just that.

But let’s be honest for a minute.

If you and I stopped to take a good look inside … we can probably imagine that at least one of those labels have been applied to us and others may have been applied to our spouses and children.

Still, in a few days and then again in a few weeks, you and I will pile in our cars or hop on planes to go home for the holidays because . . . well, they’re our family.

And like it or not, they’re the people God gave us … given both to bless us and to help us grow.

Maybe it’s with our families we are supposed to learn how to be kind and patient even when it’s hard. Maybe it’s with our families that God wants to teach us the importance of unconditional love.

So, I’ve been doing some praying and thinking about the attitudes I’d like this holiday and truthfully, those, I’m praying my family will bring as we get together. I believe it’s possible to love holiday time even if it’s with our dysfunctional families.

Just in case you need some help in advance, too … here’s:

The Best Advice to Love Holiday Time with Your Family

Everyone has a dysfunctional family! Everyone! These 10 tips will help you love spending holiday time with your family ... even the difficult ones. #FamilyGathering #Holidays #DysfunctionalFamily #WWGGG
1. Leave the Past Where It Belongs … in the Past

If it’s not a happy memory for everyone don’t bring it up.

No one knows our hot buttons better than our family and avoiding them is one of the best gifts we can give each other.

Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.Ephesians 4:31–32

2. Don’t Expect Things to be Different

If the person who upsets and annoys you is on their best behavior enjoy being pleasantly surprised, but don’t expect it … you’re just setting yourself up for disappointment and agitation.

Pray and ask God to help you have a good day no matter how others behave.

Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.James 1:19–20

3. Avoid Asking Prying Personal Questions.

When are you __________?
Why don’t you __________?
Are you ever going to __________?

You don’t want to be asked when you’re going to get married, have a baby, get a job, etc. And guess what? No one else likes it either.

“Family is a blessing. – Just keep saying that when you are irritated by something a family member says.” Marcelina Hardy

4. And You Don’t have to Answer Prying Personal Questions.

It’s perfectly okay to smile and say, “Hmm, I don’t think I have an answer for that one right now.” Then move on. 

I love this tip from a CMB reader…

My mother-in-law had a great response to such questions: “I’ll forgive you for asking if you’ll forgive me for not answering.”Gail

5. Don’t Compare Yourself to Anyone.

Jealousy and comparisons can be frequent causes of family conflicts.

When rivalry and envy raise their ugly heads … stop, breathe, and choose love.

You and I don’t know anyone else’s complete story! Everyone in your family is dealing with good and bad. Comparing your bad to their good, will only make you sad and hurt your relationship … and the opposite is true as well.

Each person should judge his own actions and not compare himself with others. Then he can be proud for what he himself has done.Each person must be responsible for himself.Galatians 6:4–5 (NCV)

Everyone has a dysfunctional family! Everyone! These 10 tips will help you love spending holiday time with your family ... even the difficult ones. #FamilyGathering #Holidays #DysfunctionalFamily #WWGGG
6. Listen More than You Talk.

This one is so hard for me but I’m learning that it’s okay for me not to share my opinion about everything.

If a conversation is getting on your nerves … offer to help in the kitchen or play with the kids, both are always appreciated.

Haughtiness goes before destruction;
    humility precedes honor.
Spouting off before listening to the facts
    is both shameful and foolish.Proverbs 18:12–13

7. Give More than You Get.

I’m not talking about gifts.

Can you imagine the difference we could make if we went into every gathering with a desire to give more kindness, encouragement, praise, compliments, forgiveness, etc.

Be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.Ephesians 4:32

8. Be Prepared with Light-hearted Conversation Starters.

Take a stack of fun questions to keep the conversation light or to redeem it if it goes sideways. You can find a printable version of some of my favorite questions here.

A few of my favorites are:

What’s your favorite family tradition. ?
Who is the funniest person at the table?
What is something you use every day for which you’re thankful?

9. Ask 3 Questions that will Bless Your Family

Several years ago, I learned 3 simple questions that I believe are the best questions you can ask your family to help them grow closer and understand each other a little better.

Find out how to ask your family about Joy, Junk, and Jesus here.

Give thanks to the Lord and
proclaim His greatness.
    Let the whole world know what He has done.
Sing to Him; yes, sing His praises.
    Tell everyone about His wonderful deeds.1 Chronicles 16:8–9

10. Pray before you go and while you’re there.

Ask God to give you patience, kindness, and compassion for each difficult person by name. Ask Him to help you forgive the past and to bless your time with your family. Ask Him to help you find the joy in spending time with the people He created to be your family.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done.Philippians 4:6

A Prayer Before You See Your Family

Father, Thank you for my family! Please help me remember they are a gift from You. Good and not so good, You have given them to me to help me grow.

As we gather together, please help us forgive the past and simply be able to love one another. Help us by the power of Your Spirit, to be patient and kind, encouraging and helpful.

Please help us treat each other the way we want them to treat us. Help us love holiday time together. Bless us with love, joy, and laughter. In Jesus’ name! Amen.

And finally, a quote to remember…

“Family life is too intimate to be preserved by the spirit of justice. It can only be sustained by a spirit of love which goes beyond justice.” Reinhold Niebuhr

Thank you so much for joining me today.
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  1. This is absolutely awesome advice, Deb! I do pray your words here will help others deal more lovingly with their families over the holidays.
    Happy Thanksgiving!

  2. This was as lifesaver, Deb. I love the suggestions! This year we are having a thankful tree where everyone gets a different colored leaf made of paper and writes their answer. We hang it on a branch that is in a vase. It’s going to be beautiful full of thankfulness! I love your posts!

  3. Great tips Deb! These will work for family and friends for so many occasions. They also work for co-workers. Excellent way to approach life in general ❤️

  4. Great ideas, Deb! I really like some of the conversation starters you’ve shared. That’s what I love the most about Thanksgiving. It’s a time to connect and catch up rather than all about the gifts. Thanks for sharing! I’ll be pinning!

  5. Melanie M. Redd says:

    Such great advice!
    I love this one and am sharing it!

  6. My goodness, I can appreciate the advice and the spirit of which it’s given but if one has to submit themselves to virtual torture why bother? The list of what one would have
    to do to survive the family gathering is enough for one to literally pass out from sheer exhaustion. As a person who has been in this situation my whole life I’d like to be an advocate ate for “ not attending” the family function. You may be able to find peace and contentment with yourself or a smaller group of friends. Why subject yourself to horror year after year after year just because they are “family”. Family doesn’t necessarily mean that these people are good or healthy for you. Spend time with those who respect and genuinely care for you not with those who happened to share the same bloodline,

  7. Such a great reminder, Deb. The concerns I have about other family members brings to mind that they may have certain concerns about me who is the only Christian in our family. I never thought of that before. Thank you!

  8. Christine says:

    This is a great post full of profound wisdom for the holidays! I especially like the one about not expecting people to be different. Having realistic expectations of relationships helps my attitude. Thank you so much.