Holidays are so needed. Given that life is so uncontrollably hectic most of the time, given the everyday stresses that just seem to multiply day by day, our responsibilities, work, family, kids…a holiday is a needed little break from the everyday hustle and bustle. We need to recharge and re-energise and fill up, so that we can soldier on again when the time comes. But what if you are holidaying with family members…this in itself could offer up some challenges. But now, let’s add to that; toxic family members!? What do you do and how do you handle it!?

1. What are some of the common causes of family clashes in general?

Pick n topic and it can be mentioned here!

It can range from how you are raising your kids, to what you do for a living, to how you treat your parents; money is also a big one.

Often times it’s the stupid small little things that can escalate to immense proportions.

Last year I facilitated with a family who wanted to get into contact again, after not talking to each other for over a year and a half. And the reasons for this complete withdrawal, was complete misunderstandings from both sides and emotional hurt caused as a result.

It took a 5 hour counselling session to get them to see the initial misunderstandings for what they were and to start the healing process for the hurt caused and escalated during the year and a half that passed,

 So often times, it’s not big things; on the contrary!

2. Holidays can put you in the same room with relatives you avoid the rest of the year – what’s the best way of dealing with toxic relatives?

There are people who make it their soul purpose in life to ruin yours and this would definitely be a toxic relative, on the other hand we have family members who are toxic, without even realizing that they are hurting us; it’s not intentional.

In the case where they are not purposefully being toxic, I think a good natured, honest but tactful conversation with the family member might be in order here; explaining emotions or feelings rather than issues or facts.

For eg “when you say to me that I am not that bright, in front of other people, although you mean it as a joke, I really feel embarrassed and hurt. I know it’s a joke and we all laugh about it, but it does in fact hurt me quite deeply”

On the other hand, if you've tried this without any success and you really get the sense that this person is out to hurt you; this is something that you will just have to manage. The biggest difficulty is to not allow these people to upset you; it has to be like water off a duck’s back. So ask your partner or your spouse to help keep you focused here.

You have to ask yourself – is this one of the people whose opinion actually matters to me, if not, just let it go.

Whatever you do, don't stoop to that level though – maintain your dignity and know that you are better than that.

3. Holiday time can also be associated with certain family traditions, some of which I may no longer wish to entertain – what’s the best way of conveying this message to other family members?

I think this depends on the reason for you not wanting to be a part of it anymore – if it’s a religious conviction that is making it uneasy for you, you can just state this firmly but calmly – I don’t agree with this and I feel uncomfortable.

If however it’s simply a case of you not wanting to because you are hurt or irritated or being difficult, maybe you should do some introspection and ask yourself whether you are not contributing to this family feud…Giving it your best shot, even though you don’t like it, may just portray the message that you are loving and caring and trying…

4. Any tips you may have for keeping sane during holiday time in general?

I think, just remember that this is your holiday as well. So you have to include things or activities during your holiday that you will find relaxing, re-energising and fun.

If you are holidaying with family or friends, try and create a balance between doing things together and doing things on your own – this will give you that free time to do things that will be pleasant for you, while still spending time together as well.