Therapist Laura Tejada Offers Suggestions on How to Deal With Difficult Family Members While On Vacation


The holidays are upon us, which means a time of joy, celebration and fun in the company of family. But as we all know, in the midst of all of these precious memories, there is a sack full of stress and pressure. As much as we love our loved ones, we don’t always have As them, and must find ways to cope to get through this season full of quality time.

PEOPLE every day Host Janine Rubenstein spoke to couple and family therapist Dr Laura Tejada, who shared some of her tips on how to survive even the most difficult family members while gathered around a table full of food.

When navigating the treacherous battlefield of divergent parents, Tejada first suggests looking within.

“Why are you ready to do? What are you available emotionally, physically, mentally,” she suggests asking yourself when interacting with those you don’t always agree with. “Evaluate the cost / benefit ratio of, ‘Is this the time to go up against Uncle Al? Or is it going to be better for you, your kids, your partner to just smile and say, “Yeah, Uncle Al, I know you care about that” and skip the prank. “

Woman cutting meat for family and friends on the table

Family reunions can come with hidden conversational landmines, and for the sake of the event, that may require putting your needs aside.

“It sometimes almost feels like a capitulation when we make these decisions in the best interests of another party, especially the children and partners,” says Tejada, noting that she has already made decisions on how to interact. with some members of her husband’s family out of respect for him. “The other thing is, honestly, no amount of verbal judo will change Uncle Al’s mind about Cousin Jan’s pie and Cousin Mary’s coffee, so I might as well enjoy the pie and the coffee.”

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If all else fails, Tejada recommends turning the event into a relative bingo game. “Uncle Al just said that, check it out, Aunt Gertrude [is] talk about immigration policy again, check, “she says of the method.” I don’t know if that relieves the stress, but it’s a cognitive way of coping and putting the experience on hold. “

Tejada adds that it is important to recognize how you are perceived when entering family situations and to know what your role is in that specific dynamic. “In my family, I’m not Laura Tejada, PhD, I’m Laura, the bossy big sister,” she admits. “When I open my mouth to anything, I have to admit that maybe I think I’m Laura, the pandemic expert for little children, but I really am not. I still am. than Laura, the big sister. “

It’s important not to get upset, even if other family members engage in one of their endless rants. Tejada emphasizes the concept of differentiation, which means “that you are still intimately and emotionally connected to your loved ones, but you do not sink into the same emotions as them”. So while your cousins ​​or brother-in-law are angry with something, you can recognize the feeling without having to take it upon yourself.

While everything is easier said than done, especially before the wine starts, Tejada admits it’s never a bad thing to take mini-breaks when it gets too much to deal with – maybe even. by offering a “signal” that it is time to move away. “For my husband and [me] it’s, ‘Hey, why don’t we take a walk before the sun goes down?’ That secret code of “I need help getting out of this interaction” or “I’ve had everything Aunt Gertrude can take now.” “”

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There are also family members that you still have open wounds with or don’t feel completely comfortable having around your children. Tejada thinks it’s important to identify these potential instances ahead of time, no matter how difficult they may be, in order to prepare yourself and plan how to stay focused on why you are. are the.

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It’s easy to dwell on the negative aspects of family, but we shouldn’t forget to show our appreciation for the little shows of love that we often take for granted. “One of the things we don’t do in families and with our partners is basic courtesy,” admits Tejada. “That’s it, ‘Hello, how are you? Good to see you. Please. Thank you. It was lovely.’ I find that with families, we sometimes forget to do that. “

Tejada emphasizes the importance of showing your affection in small touches so that your family will always feel your love. Whether it’s helping to set things up or getting them set, find the value of courtesies where you can while balancing the more difficult aspects of vacation reunions.

“Easier said than done, but it’s mine, not them,” Tejada concludes. “It kind of allows me to take charge of those interactions. Whatever they do is up to them, but I take charge of my part and it seems to get better at the end of the day.”

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