By Vivian Bricker, Crosswalk.com
Communicating with difficult family members this Christmas can be extremely hard and stressful. Instead of having a peaceful Christmas, communicating with difficult family members can leave us weary, tired, and overwhelmed. Within my family, there are those who are hard to communicate with. While many of us can relate to having difficult family members, we want to know how we can communicate with them this Christmas in a healthy, positive way.
Let's discuss several key ways to successfully communicate with difficult family this Christmas season:
Pray Prior to Seeing Them
Before communicating with difficult family members this Christmas, be intentional to pray before seeing them. In your prayer, ask God to help you in this area and ask that your family members will be willing to help in the ways they can to repair any broken relationships. Often with difficult family members, we may have a severed or estranged relationship with them. If we are honest, there is normally at least one specifically difficult family member. Instead of striving for peace, this family member lives for drama and causes problems for others.
While this may be a difficult teaching, it is important that we pray before we see them and that we also pray for them. God will equip us with the strength, patience, and endurance to communicate with difficult family members whenever we ask for His help. I have found it helpful to meditate on a Bible verse after praying to help keep my mind focused on Christ throughout the times I have to be with difficult family members. By meditating on any verse you choose, you will be reminded that God is with you and that He will help you communicate with difficult family members during this Christmas season.
Establish Boundaries and Stick by Them
We can also communicate with difficult family members this Christmas by establishing boundaries and sticking by them. Many of us have family members who ask us personal questions we would prefer not to talk about, yet they can often push this boundary to the point that it is uncomfortable. Questions such as “why are you not dating anyone?”, “why are you not married yet?”, “why haven’t you had children?” etc. can all be uncomfortable, and we are not obligated to answer them just because a family member asks us. By establishing boundaries and sticking with them, we can avoid anger and frustration if these questions arise. Asking family members to refrain from prying for personal information is not unreasonable, and every person should respect your feelings concerning the matter.
Establishing boundaries is also important in the sense of time. If we establish time boundaries with difficult family members, it can help us better communicate with them because we know we only have a set amount of time with them. For instance, if you set a boundary of only having to spend twenty minutes with the difficult family member this Christmas, it will help you to feel less stressed knowing you won’t have to be around this person for too long. This can do wonders to help our emotional and mental health during the Christmas holiday. While it can be hard at times to set boundaries, it is vital to establish boundaries for your mental well-being.
Many difficult family members can drain us and leave us dreading the holiday. Jesus doesn’t want us to dread the anniversary of His birth. He wants us to rejoice and celebrate in remembrance of His advent into the world. Boundaries are not selfish but rather necessary for our overall well-being. If difficult family members do not understand boundaries or don’t respect them, you don’t have any obligation to stay with the difficult family members. You can choose to leave, or you can choose to migrate to the family members who extend love, kindness, and support. If everyone in the family tends to be difficult and they can’t respect your boundaries, there is nothing wrong with leaving for your own emotional and mental health.
Be Open to Talking
Being open to talking is another way of communicating with difficult family members this Christmas. Not all difficult family members will be open to talking about the subtle tension, but you can still be willing to discuss past experiences. How what they said/did to you negatively affected you. We should never be afraid to speak openly about our feelings and stand up for ourselves. Difficult family members can leave us feeling overwhelmed and even hurt at times, yet it takes great bravery to be open to talk about past pain or trauma. Many of us are afraid to be open about these contentious topics; however, talking about these things can start repairing broken relationships within the family unit and assist in our healing.
Maybe being open to talking is not on your plan this year, which is completely okay if you are not ready yet. If you would rather stay around positive family members, that is also completely okay. The important part we need to remember is that the longer we avoid talking about a pain, problem, or trauma, the more prolonged our healing will be. When we openly talk about the problems in our relationships, it can help us work through difficulties if both parties are intentional about fixing the problem. While difficult family members most likely will be closed off to listening, we can pray ahead of time to ask God to help them to be willing to listen and talk through problems.
Leave the Outcome to God
Lastly, we don’t need to become too worried or overwhelmed with thinking about communicating with difficult family members this Christmas because we can leave the outcome to God. God is ultimately in control of everything, and we can trust Him with the results. While our family members have free will and can choose freely what they will do, God can still use any negative interactions to be turned into something for our good. God is amazing in this way because He works out everything for our good. Romans 8:28 tells us, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” As we can see from this passage, God can work all things out for His good, and this includes our conversations with difficult family members.
At the end of the day, God is our good, good Father. Even though our difficult family members might cause frustration or heartache this Christmas, we know God loves us eternally. Communicating with difficult family members can feel impossible and overwhelming, yet we can communicate with them through the strength of Christ. If we struggle with severe worry and anxiety concerning the upcoming holiday because of difficult family members, we can turn to the Lord. He is always there to listen to us and to comfort us. While we would all desire our family members to extend love to us, most of us have at least one family member who is difficult to interact with.
We can choose to give all of these worries, concerns, and stresses over to God. We can trust Him with the outcome because He will work all things out for our good. It should be mentioned that if you are struggling with the idea of having to communicate with difficult family members this Christmas, you don’t have to go if it is severely causing you mental or emotional problems. God wants you to make sure you take care of your well-being and make sure you are in a good place mentally. If you are currently recovering from problems related to specific family members, it might be best to avoid the celebration to preserve your own well-being. You can always celebrate with your loved ones who truly love and care about you.
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Vivian Bricker loves Jesus, studying the Word of God, and helping others in their walk with Christ. She has earned a Bachelor of Arts and Master's degree in Christian Ministry with a deep academic emphasis in theology. Her favorite things to do are spending time with her family and friends, reading, and spending time outside. When she is not writing, she is embarking on other adventures.