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Breaking away from family traditions during the holiday season can be difficult. Regardless of the reason or the explanation given to your family, friends or spouse, it rarely goes well. Why is that? The fact is that traditions are traditions for a reason. Traditions hold a symbolic or significant meaning to your family, friends and yourself. Your absence from a tradition is more than just, “Hey, sorry we won’t be there this Christmas ”. Your absence from a tradition means the loss of chances to hear family stories or to connect with distant family members who you probably will not see until next year. Tradition is a sensitive topic especially when it involves holidays or large family gatherings, and it can create unpleasant feelings and conflict.
There could be many reasons why you decide to break from a family tradition. Here are a few that I came up with…
- The growth of personal relationships (marriage). You and your new spouse want to start a tradition within your own home to celebrate the holidays. This can make your family or your spouse’s family upset.
- The ignorance to diversity and difference within your family. For example, the fear to introduce a new spouse, college friend or co-worker from a different religious, racial, or economic background. These situations can create tension for all parties involved. See clip Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.
- The strained relationship with in-laws. The constant offenses or verbal attacks from each other during traditional holiday meals can discourage your attendance at those dinners.
- Personal lifestyle choices. For example, you are now the raw vegan or vegetarian who no longer indulges in meat and/or dairy products. Yet your family still makes those traditional holiday favorites ham, deviled eggs and mashed potatoes, which you cannot eat.
- Simple boredom. I will not sugar coat. I know family traditions can become stale and boring; so, you stay home or seek another place to go instead of attending the traditional holiday festivities your father or mother have hosted over the years.
Whatever the reasons are, do not brush them off. Don’t wonder if you are the bad guy because you want to break with tradition. Remember your reasons are just as important as the tradition itself! If you want to start your own family tradition say that, but say it respectfully, explain why and say it early. Don’t wait until the day of Christmas dinner to decide you want to break tradition. If the religion or the race of your significant other worries you, speak to your family ahead of time, don’t bring your significant other into the chaos. If in-laws are purposeful grouches, tell your spouse and speak to the in-laws privately before the family affair. If you are the vegan or vegetarian at the traditional meat-loving family dinner, bring a dish for the family to try. If a particular family tradition is boring, talk with mom or dad to change it up a bit. Just remember to be respectful, show that you still care and speak up early.
To learn more about the break from family holiday traditions visit Breaking With Tradition: How to Navigate the Delicate Subject of Changing Family Holiday Rituals or listen to our recent podcast, When Cultural Expectations Collide During the Holidays: Strategies for Multicultural Families.
By Tierra Henry, Graduate Student
University of Baltimore Dispute Resolution Program
Many of us are not strangers to conflict that occurs during the holiday season. This is especially true for those of us who travel by plane to visit our family and friends out of town. If you cannot manage your stress and anxiety or take steps to prevent conflict, your holiday travel plans are sure to be negatively affected. The conflict that appears is not solely based on airport security, delayed or cancelled flights. Your behavior, attitude and approach will influence how the conflict transpires.
Let’s look at an example. Its December 22nd, you and your 2 children arrive at the airport. You will depart from Texas to visit your mother and father in your Maryland hometown. You are going through the checkpoint with the wrapped gifts as the carry-on items. Included in one of the wrapped gifts are 3 bottles of perfume for your mother. In addition, your favorite cranberry sauce and holiday juice are in the bag as well. Security prompts you to stand aside because your liquid items exceed the 3-1-1 policies for carry-ons. You have also been asked to unwrap your gifts. The liquids are not allowed through checkpoint. Therefore, you must get back in line and place them in a check bag or dispose of the items. You are upset and begin to shout and point at security personnel. TSA (Transportation Security Administration) officials ask you to step to the side because your behavior has become inappropriate.
Your reaction to a situation might be a key factor in why the conflict manifested. Did you fail to think before you reacted? Yes! Don’t beat yourself up about it, I am guilty of this as well! Especially during the holiday season, you want everything to flow perfectly. Therefore, one mistake or uncontrollable situation such as a delayed or canceled flight could change your entire mood. It’s okay. Understand that unexpected things happen. The way to lessen the stress and anxiety is to learn how to manage conflict constructively. Think about the things you can control…such as carry-ons and checked luggage to prevent further conflict…here are some tips.
Strategies to reduce stress and prevent conflict from escalating include:
- Step back and think before you react! Your goal is to remain calm and choose how you will respond to the TSA agent’s request so that you can move through the checkpoint quickly and onto your gate.
- Be aware and prepare. Visit the TSA or airport’s website before you begin to pack for a flight as there could be changes in procedures for holiday gifts and food.
- Ship Gifts Early. Consider the option to ship the gifts ahead of time. The fewer carry-on items mean that there is less to worry about at the checkpoint or for that matter to worry about having your carry-on not fit in the overhead bins and being forced to check it in at the gate
- Arrive early. Give yourself enough time at the airport to deal with larger crowds, last minute changes such as he switch of items from carry-on to your checked bag or flight delays or cancellations due to weather.
- Check out TSA’s Blog on their 2013 Holiday Travel Tips Refer to TSA’s website to see which types of foods are allowed through checkpoint.
Listen to our recent podcast Surviving Holiday Travel .
By Tierra Henry
Graduate Student, University of Baltimore Dispute Resolution Program
Conflicts with neighbors can be some of the worst disputes you can encounter. With the holidays approaching, family parties, festivities, holiday decorations, loud music and unruly guests who blocked driveways are some of the many things that fuel neighbor conflict. These types of irritations can turn into unexpected arguments and are the start of an unhealthy conflict if not discussed constructively with your neighbors.
For example, your neighbor has family and friends over for a pre-Christmas dinner. Your lights are out and your car is not in the driveway. A few people from your neighbor’s house are parked along side the street and you are blocked from your driveway entrance. Your neighbor believes it’s okay because he/she thinks you’re out of town for the holidays. However, later that night you arrive home after a long day of last minute holiday shopping you are furious because you cannot get into your driveway and your neighbor has music playing loudly. Your initial reaction is to get out of your car and bang on your neighbors door to give them a piece of your mind. Take a breath to weigh your options.
Often times these disagreements come from unmet expectations and can cause you to react in a not-so neighborly way. In order to productively approach the neighbors, ask yourself some questions before you address the conflict with your neighbor.
- What exactly is the situation you are upset about?
- What does your neighbor do or say/not do or not say that irritates you?
- What do you need? (e.g. quiet time, ability to get in and out of your home)
- How will you say it and with what kind of tone or attitude?
- Where will you have this discussion? At your place, your neighbor’s home or at a coffee shop? Wherever it is discussed, remain calm and explain how it is affecting you. Remember, people get defensive when you bring up a conflict or they feel they are being attacked.
Consider these strategies for how to prevent conflict or manage it with your neighbors.
1.) Know your Homeowner’s Association (HOA) or apartment rules pertaining to large parties, outside decorations, and parking to prevent receiving a warning notice or having cars towed.
2.) Inform your neighbors of an upcoming holiday party.
3.) Discuss your needs such as parking, loud music and partygoers. This allows your neighbor and you to discuss potential areas of irritation and to come to an understanding and prevent potential conflict.
4.) Never assume that your neighbor knows what he/she is doing is bothersome to you.
5.) If you become triggered or irritated by a situation, remain calm and practice what and how you will approach your neighbor. Be clear about how the situation is impacting you and what you need.
6.) If a neighbor has been difficult in the past or communication is not effective consider other options such as mediation.
To learn more about how to prevent and deal with nuisance neighbors, visit Conflict with Neighbors- Suggestion for Preventing Conflict and Neighbourhood Disputes or listen to our upcoming podcast Neighbor Nuisance Brings You Holiday Annoyance to prepare for the holidays.
Written by Tierra Henry, Graduate Student
University of Baltimore Dispute Resolution Program
Welcome to Texas Conflict Coach®. I am your host Pattie Porter, conflict resolution expert, mediator, conflict coach, facilitator and speaker. - Read More
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