For many of us, spending time with family can be a circus side-show of emotions – especially anger. But if you don’t know how to manage anger around family, it can make gatherings around the holidays very tense.

While you may feel love and familiarity, there may also be dynamics between you and family members that may not be very healthy. Your family might treat you like the teenager they remember, and you might revert to that role when you’re around your family without even realizing it.

There could be many things that make spending time with family a challenge. All family conflicts harbor resentment and spoken or unspoken disagreements can make you dread seeing them again. If you have trouble managing your anger around your family, here are some tips for how to manage anger during the upcoming holiday season. 

How to manage anger around family

Increase awareness of your anger

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If you don’t know how to manage anger, it’s likely because you have little awareness of how it begins in your body. The good news is, it’s easy to learn.

People experience anger differently. Some might get more aggressive, some might withdraw, and some internalize the anger. By increasing your awareness of how you experience anger, you can better recognize when that emotion is starting to develop inside so you can shake control of how to respond.

Start by noticing where it first shows up in your body. Your chest? Your stomach? It’s different for everyone, but the mid-section is the first place to look for sensations from your body letting you know you’re getting angry.

REview your script

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Family members can be intrusive and nosy. Having a set of responses ready to go is helpful if you don’t know how to manage anger around family.

It’s very common for family to ask intrusive or inappropriate questions. You might have a nosy aunt who always asks about your relationships, or maybe your mom is constantly bugging you about starting a family. Come prepared with rehearsed responses so you won’t be caught off guard. 

Set & maintain Clear boundaries

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Setting boundaries is one thing, but maintaining them is a whole different story.

It’s important to set boundaries with family. If a family member is aggressive or rude to you, or is always making you the butt of their jokes, your silence acts as approval of their behavior. Because you don’t protest, they think what they’re saying or doing is fine with you. Furthermore, pretending their bad behavior is acceptable only gives them more room to continue the bad behavior, or to get worse.

Set boundaries with family and let them know when things they’re saying or doing is not OK with you.

devise an escape strategy

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Sometimes the best defense is having a pre-planned reason for needing to leave early.

Sometimes the best option to keep the family peace (and your sanity) is to spend less time with your family. If your family tends to have snacks or drinks before dinner, show up just in time to join for dinner at the table. You can also opt to skip dessert or coffee and leave a bit early with prearranged plans.

Family relationships are complex and deep rooted. Family members are often the ones who know best how to push your buttons. While managing your anger can be challenging, learning to maintain control over your emotions is a healthy act of self-care. It will not only keep you sane, but will keep your family relationships unharmed and intact.

The holidays are supposed to be a time of fun, celebration and love with friends and family. But if you’re having difficulty navigating complicated family relationships, the holidays can be very challenging. If you don’t know how to manage your anger around family, it can be even more difficult.

Try these techniques and it you’re still struggling, find an awesome therapist or life coach you like and trust to help you sort things out and get back on track.

James Killian, LPC is the Principal Therapist & Owner of Arcadian Counseling in New Haven, CT where they specialize in helping over-thinkers, high achievers, and perfectionists reduce stress, increase fulfillment and enhance performance so they can move From Surviving To Thriving.