Family, Oh Family: How To Handle Tricky Family Situations Over the Holidays

Family, Oh Family: How To Handle Tricky Family Situations Over the Holidays

How to Enjoy Your Time With The People You Love The Most.

Ahoy there! As I’m sure you’re well aware, the holidays are fast approaching. If you’re like many (most?) of our life coaching, therapy, and marriage counseling clients, over the past few weeks you’ve probably had lots of questions on your mind about how to handle this time of year – especially when it comes to managing your most important family relationships.

While family holidays have the potential to be fun and meaningful opportunities for connection, they can also be fraught with delicate and/or infuriating interpersonal dilemmas for many people. You want to have close relationships with your family or in-laws, and at the same time, it can feel very challenging to navigate the high-intensity holiday season without your family pushing your buttons, and firing off your emotional triggers.

Because of having had bad experiences in holidays past, many people can spend weeks, if not months, leading up to the holidays in a state of “holiday anxiety.” We have had a number of thoughtful and heartfelt questions come in recently from our listeners, readers, and clients about how to handle various relationship situations over the holidays.

As a little holiday “care package” for them and for you, I’ll be putting on my family therapist hat and addressing them on today’s episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast.

Here are some of the questions our listeners (and clients) have been asking lately. I chose these questions in particular because I think that so many people can relate to them…

Grandparents Not Respecting Parents

“Dr. Lisa, I love my husband’s family. They are so kind, and generous with us. At the same time, I feel that they do not respect our (especially my) authority as parents. In our home we have expectations for our kid’s behavior, and also set limits around things like junk food. I feel that my husband’s parents disregard these completely, even when we directly ask them to. The grandparents are overstepping boundaries. In particular, my mother in law is controlling and overbearing. It doesn’t matter what I say or how I feel. My husband tells me that it’s just the way she is and to go along with it. But I am so frustrated when I’m around her. I need him to set boundaries with his family and he won’t. I need to be setting boundaries for grandparents. We are going to be staying with them for a week. Help!”

How Do I Deal With My Judgmental Family

“How do I deal with nosy questions? Even if they are well-meaning, I feel like my family does not get me at all, and like they’re always judging me and my choices.”

Spending Christmas Alone After Divorce

“This is my first holiday after my divorce, and I feel really sad. All I can think about are holidays I had with my Ex. My friends are busy with their families. I feel lonely. I think I am starting to get “holiday depression” over it. What do I do?”

Toxic Parents: Do I Avoid My Family Over the Holidays?

“I want to have a good relationship with my family, but over the years I have become aware that I have toxic parents. I believe they may even be narcissistic parents. Both of my parents are critical and judgmental of me. My mother can literally be abusive towards me. She is also completely codependent. I have dealt with it in the past by avoiding family gatherings, and avoiding my family during the holidays. My friends have told me I should cut off family entirely, and honestly I have considered cutting family out of my life. I don’t want to do that, but I don’t know what else to do to protect myself from my toxic family.”

Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents

“My parents are the nicest people ever but they drive me crazy. My mom is constantly complaining about her health, and then I watch her sit on her butt all day and eat junk food. She is seriously overweight, has high blood pressure, is pre-diabetic, and will not do anything about it. My father constantly interrupts people. He drinks too much. He talks with his mouth full. My parents are not in a great place financially, and spend way too much money on our kids during the holidays and they make bad financial choices in general. I am literally embarassed by my parents. I want to help them but when I say anything they shut me down. All my “holiday stress” is tied to my frustrating family. How do I deal with this?”

I answer all these questions on today’s podcast. Listen, and get some advice for how to manage all of these challenging family situations with love, compassion, tolerance and strength. Do you have follow up questions for me? Or comments? Please share them on the blog!

All the best,
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

P.S. Here’s a link if you want to check out one of the resources discussed on today’s show. Crucial Conversations; Tools For Talking When the Stakes Are High, by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan & Switzler

Yes, They're Judging You. (But You Can Still Have a Happy Holiday, Anyway).

by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | Love, Happiness & Success

Music Credits: “Country Roads” by John Denver

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How To Deal With Difficult Parents

How To Deal With Difficult Parents

Do you have issues with your parents?

If so, you’re normal. As a therapist, family therapist, and life coach I know that many, if not most, people in their twenties, thirties, and forties are still working through different aspects of their relationships with their parents. This doesn’t mean rehashing the past, but rather letting go of old, self-limiting baggage so that you can move forward into the life you design.

Though this work can be challenging, it can also be absolutely necessary for you to re-define your relationships with your family of origin as you grow into your happiest, healthiest, “best self.” Understanding how you relate/d to your family can also be profoundly important to understanding how you relate to your spouse and children.

Sometimes, this work involves healing, and forgiving your parents for things that happened in the past. You may need to learn how to establish healthy adult relationships with your parents, as you create your own family. Or, you might need to set boundaries with your parents, and release the responsibility and guilt your’re carrying.

It’s a lot, and for many this type of work can feel very “big” and overwhelming. So on this episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast, I’m going to be talking you through some really common “parent problems” that adults face, and give you some tips for how to resolve them successfully. This episode might be helpful to you if you have:

  1. Critical parents, judgmental parents or (shiver) narcissistic parents.
  2. Intrusive parents, controlling parents, or generous parents who give gifts with strings attached.
  3. Parents who are a mess, and emotionally or financially dependent on you.
  4. Unfinished emotional business with parents who have disappointed you, or hurt you.

Yes, these are deep topics, but ones I know that so many of you can relate to. I hope that the advice I share here can help you to not just create healthier and happier relationships with your parents, but can launch you on your own empowering journey of healing and growth.

May peace be with you,

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby


How To Deal With Difficult Parents

by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | Love, Happiness & Success Podcast

(Music Credits: “Melt Your Heart,” by Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins)

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