How to Survive Family During the Holidays

Families — as everyone knows— are extremely complicated.

Story by Sophie Muir | @sophiemuir

For some students, the holidays are a chance to take a break from the stress and anxiety caused by school. But for many other students, the holidays trigger those exact same feelings. When preparing to return home for the holidays, keep these tips in mind.

Photo courtesy of @crcmuir on Instagram

Photo courtesy of @crcmuir on Instagram

When home doesn’t feel the same.

It’s a strange feeling when you return home for the holidays and realize that it doesn’t quite feel the same anymore. Your parents have renovated your bedroom into a “guest room,” your family dog is looking especially gray, and there seems to be a shift in your family dynamic as a whole. Whether they are growing up or growing old, every member of your family is experiencing their own changes.

Before you return home for the holidays, it’s important to acknowledge that things aren’t going to be the same as they used to be. Once you accept this new reality and set realistic expectations for your time there, you may find it easier to be present and enjoy yourself.

When going home triggers unpleasant memories.

The holiday season is an extremely family-oriented time of year. This means that returning home for the holidays can be especially painful for those experiencing unexpected shifts in their family dynamic. Whether your family is going through a divorce or grieving the loss of a loved one, the absence of a family member can be overwhelming during the holidays. The holidays suddenly become bittersweet when memories of happiness and togetherness now serve as a reminder of loss and change.

Decide which traditions you want to keep, which traditions you want to change, and even consider creating new ones with the rest of your family. Remember, there is no right or wrong way to cope with grief during the holidays.

When going home means dealing with troublesome family members.

Getting along with family members may be difficult when they won’t accept you for who you are or who you have become during your time at college. When your family members don’t agree with your lifestyle choices - whether it be your chosen sexuality, gender, partner, or religion - the holidays can be a downright difficult time. You may feel pressured to slip back into your teenage ways and forget the person you’ve become since going away to college, but you shouldn’t have to sacrifice who you are or what matters to you.

Before heading home for the holidays, take time to self-reflect and set secure boundaries for yourself. Know what behavior you will and will not tolerate from potentially hostile family members. Remember, you don’t have to tolerate shitty behavior from someone simply because they’re family!

When you don’t have a good relationship with food.

The holiday season, for most families, tends to be centered around food. While many college students look forward to returning home to an abundance of home-cooked meals, those struggling with body image issues may dread this time of year. The overwhelming combination of family and food may trigger eating disorder behaviors and bad eating habits in those who suffer.

In an attempt to shift your focus away from food, try reflecting on the holiday itself! Remind yourself why you and your loved ones have come together to celebrate. However, If you are experiencing an increase of symptoms during the holidays, there are plenty of positive approaches you can take.