5 Reasons You’re Dreading Seeing Family This Thanksgiving & How to Combat Family Anxiety

Do you find yourself mentally and emotionally preparing to see your family over the holidays?


There are several possible reasons you may be feeling this way, ranging from a lack of boundaries, to childhood trauma, to differences in opinions and beliefs.


These are the most common reasons people experience anxiety about seeing their families during the holidays:

  • Lack of or Disregard for Boundaries

  • Unsolicited Advice/ Criticism

  • Alcoholic Family Member(s)

  • Unhealed Trauma

  • Conflict Avoidance


 

LACK OF OR DISREGARD FOR BOUNDARIES

One of the most common issues within families is having a lack of or complete disregard for boundaries.


Certain families who are tightly connected have a complete lack of boundaries and therefore rely heavily on each other in ways that are unhealthy and dysfunctional. These families are called “enmeshed” families. In an enmeshed family, family members overshare information, have needy relationships with each other, have a lack of privacy, rely too heavily on each other for emotional support, or have a “helicopter” parenting style. In some cases parents are so emotionally invested in their child’s sports, activities, and achievements that they are actively living through their child. Family members are connected by unhealthy emotions generally rooted in trauma or mental illness.


Families that do have boundaries but have members who do not respect them and continually disregard them are also dysfunctional. Oftentimes the majority of the family abides by societal expectations and personal boundaries, but one or two family members lack self-awareness and violate those boundaries whether they realize it or not.


This behavior can make family gatherings extremely tense and uncomfortable. Topics such as religion, politics, and family drama that are usually frowned-upon at the dinner table may arise from a family member who feels the need to voice their opinions or give unsolicited advice. Heated arguments or debates can ensue and fill the air with tension and discomfort.


The good news: It is not too late to ask for help! People who grew up in enmeshed families or families who ignore boundaries benefit from coaching because they are able to learn how their family relationships affect their emotional well-being, confidence, and other relationships. Coaching also helps people become aware of the unhealthy patterns in their daily lives, which is the first step to change.

One of the best ways to make progress with your family is to establish your boundaries, make sure family members are aware of them, and stand your ground when boundaries are crossed.


I suggest writing a list of each thing that makes you uncomfortable when you are with family, then create a reasonable boundary that would serve as a solution for each uncomfortable situation. If you commit to these new boundaries you will not only begin to eliminate those uncomfortable occurrences, but build independence, feel empowered, break unhealthy habits, and improve your self-esteem.