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Surviving The Holidays With Family, Part 2


Surviving the holidays for people with family trauma

This is an update with new tips from my previous post.


During this holiday season, some of us are eagerly anticipating seeing family. And some of us are dreading it.


This is for those who are dreading it. The ones who have challenging relationships with their families.


I want to say it is quite ok if your relationship with family isn’t the best. And explaining to friends and colleagues why you dread the holidays can be hard sometimes…they just might not understand.


So this is to those of us who have complicated families…I see you.



Here are the 5 tips from my previous blog:

  1. Find an ally

  2. Strategically spending time with family

  3. Find your own meaning for the holidays

  4. Have your own space to stay

  5. Remind everyone why you're here


Here are a few more tips and tricks to help manage your holidays with family:


  1. Setting boundaries in advance This communication might be incorporated into a phone call, facetime, or text message you have with your family when you're planning your trip down. You're letting them know what topics you wouldn't want to talk about. You might say something like the following: "I'm looking forward to my visit with you. And I would really appreciate it if we don't talk too much about my career/job. It'll really help me focus on spending quality time with you." Or... "I know you're sometimes worried about my dating/married life. But I would really appreciate it if we don't talk too much about it. It'll really help me focus on spending quality time with you." Feel free to tweak these as you see fit. You know your family best, and what would and wouldn't work.

  2. Manage your expectations Be realistic with your expectations. You can't control the behaviours of others, but you can decide how you want to react. Instead of expecting a perfect family gathering, aim for "good enough." The definition of "good enough" is your call. It might simply be averaging a 7/10 on your stress scale during your visit. Or it might be having a 2 hour meal where you aim for uncontroversial topics and redirect triggering topics to something safer.

  3. Create a support plan Talk to a therapist or trusted friend before you visit. You can get their help to brainstorm how to manage your triggers. Try to stay ahead of things by knowing your potential triggers. It might be certain topics of discussion, a certain look that your family might give you, or a certain tone in which they speak to you. Know what emotion it triggers (anger, shame, fear, sadness?). Come up with ways of coping to prepare for possible triggers/dysregulation.

  4. Practice self-care Take your self-care routine on the road with you. Perhaps you need to visit a coffee shop to journal, before you meet with family. Maybe you need to take occasional breaks during gathering(s) and go for a walk or call a trusted friend. Or maybe you take a bathroom break to breathe and ground yourself. Think ahead, and be intentional with your self-care.

  5. Have an exit strategy If things get rough, it is ok to leave. If you feel safe enough, you can let your family know the reason you're leaving. But if you don't feel safe to do that, you can prepare, beforehand, reasons why you have to go. You can speak with a friend or therapist to help prepare.


The holidays can be a stressful time. Find time and take care of yourself!



As always, thanks for tuning in. If you found this helpful, share with your peeps. You can also get my free Asian Survival Guide.


Ready to change your life? Schedule a free consultation and let's get started!



Harry Au

Therapy for Asians

MSW, RSW | he/him



I help Asians go from feeling trapped to becoming self-liberated.

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