How to handle difficult family dynamics over Thanksgiving

A neuropsychologist provides helpful tips

How to handle difficult family dynamics over Thanksgiving

Dealing with difficult family members during Thanksgiving can be challenging, but navigating these situations with patience and understanding is possible. Dr. Aldrich Chan is a neuropsychologist who shares some strategies to help you manage difficult family dynamics during the holiday:

1. Set Boundaries: Clearly establish your personal boundaries and communicate them if necessary. Let family members know what behavior is unacceptable and what you are willing to tolerate.

2. Stay Calm: When faced with difficult family members, try to remain calm and composed. Avoid escalating conflicts by keeping your emotions in check.

3. Empathize: Try to understand the perspectives and emotions of the difficult family member. Empathy can help defuse tense situations and lead to more productive conversations.

4. Active Listening: Give the difficult family member a chance to express themselves. Actively listen to their concerns or frustrations, even if you don't agree with them. This can help them feel heard and understood.

5. Avoid Triggers: Be mindful of topics that trigger conflict or arguments, and steer clear of them. Focus on neutral or positive subjects to keep the atmosphere pleasant.

6. Change the Subject: If a conversation is becoming contentious, change the subject to something more neutral or positive. This can redirect the focus and alleviate tension.

7. Deflect Criticism: If you're the target of criticism or negativity, respond with a deflecting, positive comment or simply change the subject. Avoid engaging in a defensive or confrontational manner.

READ MORE: 5 tips to help families manage holiday stress

8. Offer Compliments: Compliments and expressions of gratitude can go a long way in diffusing tension. Acknowledge and appreciate the positive qualities of your family members.

9. Take Breaks: If you find a conversation escalating or if you feel overwhelmed, take a short break. Step outside or into another room to regroup and calm yourself.

10. Limit Alcohol: Alcohol can lower inhibitions and sometimes exacerbate conflicts. Be mindful of your alcohol consumption, and encourage others to do the same.

11. Be a Peacemaker: If you're comfortable doing so, try to mediate between family members in conflict. Encourage understanding and compromise and help them find common ground.

12. Lead by Example: Model respectful and positive behavior for other family members. Your demeanor can set the tone for the gathering.

13. Avoid the Blame Game: Avoid blaming or criticizing difficult family members, as this is unlikely to lead to a productive resolution. Focus on solutions and understanding instead.

14. Gratitude: Remind everyone of the purpose of Thanksgiving: to express gratitude and come together as a family. Encourage family members to focus on what they're thankful for.

15. Seek Support: If you're struggling to manage a difficult family situation, consider seeking advice or support from a therapist or counselor.

Ultimately, it's important to approach difficult family members with patience and a willingness to foster understanding. Remember that you cannot control their behavior, but you can control your own reactions and responses. By staying composed, empathetic, and focused on the positive aspects of the holiday, you can help create a more harmonious Thanksgiving gathering.

Dr. Aldrich Chan, Neuropsychologist

Dr. Chan is a Neuropsychologist, author of the award-winning book Reassembling Models of Reality published in the prestigious Interpersonal Neurobiology Series and founder of the Center for Neuropsychology and Consciousness (CNC), a practice in Miami, Florida that provides neuropsychological and psychological services.  In addition to his practice, he was sought out to teach as an Adjunct Professor for the Doctoral program (rank #5 Best Psy.D. program) and Masters (rank #1, Best Online Masters program) at Pepperdine University. In the Masters program, he is acting as Course Lead (i.e. course design, teaching, and management of other professors). His lectures cover the fields of neuropsychology, psychotherapy, consciousness, affective neuroscience, interpersonal neurobiology, and cognitive psychology.

Other articles by HVP News Reporters

  • The Bear Mountain Ice Rink is opening for the season

    Join them on November 4th for the first skate

    The Palisades Interstate Park Commission is pleased to announce the opening of the Bear Mountain Ice Rink for the 2023/24 season. Join us on November 4th for the first skate at the rink that was voted Best of the Hudson Valley three years running! read more »
  • Kingston Eats Veggies Campaign builds interest in local produce

    Kingston’s Creating Healthy Schools and Communities (CHSC) is piloting “Kingston Eats Veggies,” a vegetable of the month campaign. read more »
  • ASHA announces new developmental milestones for children ages birth to 5

    Checklists will help parents track their child's development

    The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) announces today the free, online availability of new checklists that detail communication (speech, language, and hearing) milestones for children ages birth to 5 years as well as feeding and swallowing milestones for children ages birth to 3 years. These milestones provide parents and caregivers with a roadmap of what to expect during their child's early years of life—and can alert them to the early signs of a potential developmental delay or disorder. read more »
  • How to make higher-quality choices at the grocery store

    Arm yourself with a plan and info

    Grocery shopping can be stressful when there are so many options, especially if you’re making a conscious effort to make high-quality food choices while you shop. Arming yourself with a plan and plenty of information can help you make smarter choices and feel good about the meals you prepare for your family. read more »
  • Self-care for sick days

    Navigate cough, cold and flu season like a pro

    Cooler weather inevitably means cough, cold and flu season isn’t far behind. Now is the time to take precautions and set yourself up with healthy habits. read more »
  • Simplify holiday hosting from start to finish

    It's all in the planning

    Hosting a major holiday event is no small effort. It requires close attention to detail from planning, cooking and cleaning to entertaining guests on the big day. Fortunately, just like any good recipe, approaching your hosting duties one step at a time can allow you to create a magnificent final product. read more »
  • Elevate your tailgate with easy-to-make recipes

    Concoct a winning game plan

    Concoct a winning game plan, gather the parking lot games and call the biggest fans you know – it’s tailgating season. This year, before you root on your favorite team, make sure your pregame party matches the intensity of the fourth quarter with recipes that really fire up the crowd. read more »
  • Holiday gift ideas to promote healthy, happy feet

    Give them some love this season

    Want to show your loved ones you truly care? Treat their feet this holiday season. read more »
  • 5 tips to keep kids healthy during the holidays

    Make it a priority for everyone

    As the year comes to a close, the weather gets colder and indoor festivities ramp up. Keeping children and their families healthy during the holidays should be a priority for everyone. read more »
  • Take control of your blood pressure

    7 changes to help manage your health

    What you eat and drink, as well as your activity level and habits, affect your heart and brain health and are essential for managing blood pressure, cholesterol and more. High blood pressure is a leading cause and controllable risk factor for heart disease and stroke as well as other issues such as kidney failure, vision loss and sexual problems. read more »