It’s common for families to fall back into old patterns when they come together to celebrate Christmas, whether that’s avoiding confrontation or pushing each other’s buttons. (Maggie Morrill/Pixabay)

It’s common for families to fall back into old patterns when they come together to celebrate Christmas, whether that’s avoiding confrontation or pushing each other’s buttons. (Maggie Morrill/Pixabay)

Plan ahead to avoid family fights at Christmas, says clinical psychologist

Reflect and set boundaries before things get heated

Christmas is a time where families come together to celebrate, but it can also see families fall back into old patterns resulting in annoying or toxic family fights.

Clinical psychologist and Professor of Psychology at the University of Victoria Catherine Costigan has suggestions on how to avoid irritating or potentially harmful blow-ups. She said if your family has a history of fighting, it’s likely this Christmas will be no different, and if you’re a family that avoids conflict it’s likely that pattern will continue.

“Patterns for families stay relatively stable, whether it’s a good pattern or a bad one,” Costigan said. “Your buttons tend to get pushed the same way they did when you were young. Unless someone commits to doing something differently, [Christmas] will probably be the same.”

She said it’s important to know the difference between toxic confrontations and annoying arguments. “It’s toxic if it cuts to the core of who you are as a person, if it’s undermining your confidence as opposed to someone just being argumentative, if the conflict stays with you for days, or if the person’s intentions are to harm you,” Costigan said. “Sometimes a family member is just hurting so much and they lash out. People have different capacities for being around that.”

Costigan said the key for people dealing with both toxic and non-toxic family interactions over Christmas is taking some time to reflect before heading out to family Christmas and having a plan already in place. She said if just one family member makes a commitment to themselves to do something differently, it can impact the rest of the family’s behavior too. “It’s about a little reflection on where things blow up, what am I doing, and how can I do something differently,” Costigan said. She said to think of three things you can do differently within yourself.

READ ALSO: PHOTOS: Lights delight at 33rd annual Magic of Christmas at Butchart Gardens

“Consider not drinking around your family if it’s been an issue in the past,” she said. If you have toxic relationships with your family, she said it’s about knowing your boundaries and having an out if you need one. “Take a walk around the block, phone a friend or watch TV if it gets toxic,” Costigan suggested. “Set your limits and have a plan. The only thing you have control over is yourself, how you behave, and how long you stay.”

sophie.heizer@saanichnews.com

ChristmasChristmas holidayFamily activities

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Sidney Jon Blair said he would have died if a van and car had collided at the intersection of corner of Resthaven Drive and Brethour Avenue in early December. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Sidney senior urges motorists to slow down on Resthaven Drive

Jon Blair said community must become more pedestrian-friendly

Bob Joseph, author of 21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act, will be available for a Q&A through the Vancouver Island Regional Library Jan. 28. (Courtesy of Vancouver Island Regional Library)
Q&A on the Indian Act with Bob Joseph open to Greater Victoria residents

Bob Joseph is the author of 21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act

Tarpaulin-covered tents sit next to one of the ponds in Beacon Hill Park. The location of the Meegan community care tent has still not been nailed down, as Victoria council rejected the recommendation offered by city staff. (Don Descoteau/News Staff)
Location of care tent for Victoria’s Beacon Hill campers still not settled

Council roundly rejects Avalon Road site, road’s edge on Cook Street appears the top alternative

Central Saanich will investigate ways in which the municipality along with funding partners Sidney and North Saanich can financially support the Panorama Recreation Centre. (Black Press Media File)
Central Saanich to spell out options for financially supporting Panorama Recreation Centre

Municipality looks for best use of COVID-19 restart grant worth some $3.5 million

The Songhees Wellness Centre is a symbol of First Nations strength in the region. Representatives of local First Nations will soon play a greater role in decision making and governance relating to the Capital Regional District. (Courtesy Royal Roads University)
Capital Regional District to add First Nations representatives to advisory committees

Board approves bylaw, looks forward to Indigenous input on future decisions

A scene from “Canada and the Gulf War: In their own words,” a video by The Memory Project, a program of Historica Canada, is shown in this undated illustration. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Historica Canada
New video marks Canada’s contributions to first Gulf War on 30th anniversary

Veterans Affairs Canada says around 4,500 Canadian military personnel served during the war

A 17-year-old snowmobiler used his backcountry survival sense in preparation to spend the night on the mountain near 100 Mile House Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021 after getting lost. (South Cariboo Search and Rescue Facebook photo)
Teen praised for backcountry survival skills after getting lost in B.C.’s Cariboo mountains

“This young man did everything right after things went wrong.”

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa on December 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
No place for ‘far right’ in Conservative Party, Erin O’Toole says

O’Toole condemned the Capitol attack as ‘horrifying’ and sought to distance himself and the Tories from Trumpism

A passer by walks in High Park, in Toronto, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. This workweek will kick off with what’s fabled to be the most depressing day of the year, during one of the darkest eras in recent history. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
‘Blue Monday’ getting you down? Exercise may be the cure, say experts

Many jurisdictions are tightening restrictions to curb soaring COVID-19 case counts

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
COVID-19: Provinces work on revised plans as Pfizer-BioNTech shipments to slow down

Anita Anand said she understands and shares Canadians’ concerns about the drug company’s decision

Tourists take photographs outside the British Columbia Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday August 26, 2011. A coalition of British Columbia tourism industry groups is urging the provincial government to not pursue plans to ban domestic travel to fight the spread of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. travel ban will harm struggling tourism sector, says industry coalition

B.C. government would have to show evidence a travel ban is necessary

(Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
‘Targeted’ shooting in Coquitlam leaves woman in hospital

The woman suffered non-life threatening injuries in what police believe to be a targeted shooting Saturday morning

Everett Bumstead (centre) and his crew share a picture from a tree planting location in Sayward on Vancouver Island from when they were filming for ‘One Million Trees’ last year. Photo courtesy, Everett Bumstead.
The tree-planting life on Vancouver Island featured in new documentary

Everett Bumstead brings forth the technicalities, psychology and politics of the tree planting industry in his movie

JaHyung Lee, “Canada’s oldest senior” at 110 years old, received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. He lives at Amenida Seniors Community in Newton. (Submitted photo: Amenida Seniors Community)

Most Read