Gathering with the family can lead to dredging up past memories, hidden resentments, clashing of parenting styles, and all-out arguments. How can we approach them with the right heart attitude? Dr. Greg Smalley of Focus on the Family has some tips on navigating the holidays with your family.

What are some of the things that make us hesitate before a family Christmas, Thanksgiving, or other get-together?

• Past memories, and a fear of repetition

• Personality clashes

• Unresolved conflicts

Greg points out that it’s too easy to walk into family gatherings with our guard up. “We didn’t get to choose our family – but it doesn’t matter because our family members are still incredibly valuable.”

Common themes:

• We put a lot of pressure on family gatherings and holidays, because we want to make up for the negative patterns and frustrations of the year leading up to it.

• Unspoken expectations can ruin even the most well-planned events. Pray and ask God to shape your expectations before you leave

• Take opportunities for levity during the gathering – laugh, and realize you can laugh as a family.

• Take time to make a tribute to those who are no longer with you.

Greg suggests using Christmas traditions. “There’s a way it can bring people together. Be intentional to settle in, sit somewhere, and just watch. Watch what’s going on. Maybe part of what’s going to soften your heart is to watch how a certain family member interacts with their child, or someone else.”

Highlight : The power of family traditions

Why do we dread holiday get-togethers?

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