How To Have Better Family Communication Over the Holiday

Family during the holidays enjoying a meal while using better communication from Jody Sargent, LCSW's tips.

By Jody Sargent, LCSW

As the holiday season approaches, the complexities of family dynamics may surface. If you find yourself grappling with unresolved family conflicts amid the joyous celebrations, know that you’re not alone. Often, these occasions can magnify ongoing issues, leaving us to confront tough decisions and persistent problems within our family unit.

Navigating conflict within a family setting can be challenging, as we tend to echo learned behaviors from our parents or caregivers. Sometimes, these behaviors, such as resorting to loud arguments to be heard, can inadvertently distance our loved ones and reopen old wounds that have been buried deep within us. Yelling and aggressive tendencies may compromise the sense of safety within the family. This triggers our nervous system, leading us to react instinctively—responding with hurtful words, physical aggression, or withdrawing into ourselves, seeking safety either physically or emotionally.

Perhaps you’ve found solace in turning away from the discomfort, seeking refuge in strangers or social media. However, masking your inner conflicts behind a façade of smiles can lead to internal turmoil and hinder your ability to cultivate fulfilling relationships in the future.

Using I Statements Can Help Foster Connection and Understanding

It’s crucial to communicate our needs to our loved ones, asking for what we require in a manner that fosters understanding and connection. Using “I” statements can be incredibly helpful:

“I feel…”

“When I see you (or hear you say)…”

“What I want (or need) from you is…”

If you anticipate challenging family conversations with your teens, your parents, your spouse or your siblings during the holidays Unified Family Therapy is here to help. We have holiday appointments available for you. Make a call and get support today!

Tips For Having Difficult Conversations With Loved Ones:

  1. Schedule and plan a suitable time for discussions. Avoid voicing your needs when emotions are high or when someone is fatigued or hungry (hangry). Yelling or bringing up important matters as someone is leaving might not yield productive results.
  2. Prioritize conversations that are respectful and constructive. Aim to strengthen the relationship rather than risking its integrity.
  3. Maintain focus during discussions. Consider jotting down points or creating a list to guide the conversation. Setting a time limit prevents beautiful moments from turning into unnecessary conflicts.
  4. Allow space for your loved one to express themselves freely. Practice active listening without interruptions and refrain from making impulsive judgments.
  5. Practice reflective listening, even in disagreement. Attempt to understand the other person’s perspective by saying, “Let me see if I understand what you are saying.” This approach can help identify shared needs and values.
  6. Engage in fair conflict resolution. Avoid blame, name-calling, or using absolute statements. The goal is to find solutions rather than establishing who is right or wrong.
  7. Avoid engaging in conflicts while under the influence of alcohol. Drinking can exacerbate tensions and hinder effective communication. Focus on resolving issues and prioritize the relationship over the need to prove oneself right.

Recognize the Need for Outside Help

Recognize the need for outside help when conflicts persist. Seeking assistance from a neutral third party can often provide valuable guidance in resolving disagreements and strengthening relationships.

Unified Family Therapy in Draper, Utah can help you navigate the relationships in your life that may be complex and confusing. Our trained therapist will give you the tools you need to make and keep the connections you wish to have in your life. They can also help you learn to set healthy boundaries that can keep you safe. Don’t hesitate to reach out and set an appointment today.