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It’s that time of year again – having to put up with your dysfunctional family over the holidays. If you would rather chew shards of glass dipped in cyanide than have to attend Christmas dinner with Rude Uncle Ralph or Toxic Aunt Theresa, this article is for you. And you’re not alone either, by the way.

Here are 13 simple and fun ways to deal with your dysfunctional family members so you can finally enjoy your feast without losing your marbles.

Set boundaries


One of the most important things you can do to deal with a dysfunctional family over the holidays is to set clear boundaries. This could mean limiting the amount of time you spend with your family, avoiding certain topics of conversation, or saying no to requests from family members you’re uncomfortable with.

Prepare yourself mentally

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If there’s no way you can escape from another dreadful holiday dinner with your dysfunctional family, the best thing you can do is prepare yourself mentally. You already know who the main characters in the Toxic Triangle are, and you already have a general idea of how things will go down. Remind yourself that it’s temporary, dinner will be yummy, and do whatever it takes to prepare yourself for dinner.

Focus on the positive


It can be easy to get caught up in family drama and negativity but try to focus on the positive aspects of your family and the holiday season. Maybe there’s a family member you genuinely enjoy spending time with or a holiday tradition you love. Spend more time with that person.

Ignore the toxic ones

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Go to another room, engage in a different conversation or completely block them out. If they are really grating on your last nerve, just ignore them and don’t argue with them. Remember, arguing with a fool only proves there are two.

Create your own traditions

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If the traditional family holiday activities aren’t working for you, create your own traditions. Maybe that’s volunteering at a local shelter, hosting a Friendsgiving with friends, or doing a movie marathon with your partner. You don’t have to do what everyone else does if it’s not working for you, even if that means declining the invitation to dinner.

Find other things to do

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If you don’t want to sit at the adult table with the toxic ones, go hang out at the kid’s table or eat in the living room. You can watch a movie, in the other room, do anything other than sitting there and listening to them go on and on. There’s no rule book that says you have to.

Lay down topic rules


Topics like politics, religion, and even past mistakes from some family members seem to be the hot topics that cause an awful lot of tension and get tempers flaring. Why not lay down some ground rules and tell your family that these topics should be off-limits so everyone can enjoy the holiday meal in peace and quiet?

Avoid alcohol

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While it can be tempting to turn to alcohol to deal with family stress, it often only magnifies the problem. Consider limiting your alcohol intake or avoiding it altogether to keep your emotions in check. We know how alcohol tends to produce courage and loose lips. Abstaining at family dinner might be your best defense.

Have an escape plan


It’s always good to have an escape plan in case things get too overwhelming, and let’s face it, this could happen. Having a friend on standby to pick you up and or just make up some excuse as to why you have to leave early. No one needs to know unless you are honest enough to tell them you can’t deal with their drama anymore. Remember, your sanity is more important than their opinions.

Invite a friend to join you


We all know how our families behave differently when ‘company’ is over. They are all on their best behavior. Invite a friend to join you for dinner and watch how everyone will get along and dinner will be wonderful!

Shield wall


Yes, it’s crazy, I may be crazy too, but it works! Just before you leave the house to attend Christmas dinner with the crazies, imagine a protective shield wall all around your body and head. Told you it was crazy. Imagine that anything and everything negative will bounce off this wall and not harm you in any way. Don’t laugh. Just try it.

Let go of expectations

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At the end of the day, it’s essential to let go of any expectations you have for your family or the holidays. You can’t control the behavior of others, but you can control how you react to it. Focus on being kind, compassionate, and understanding, and know that you’ve done your best.

Walk away

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Yes, you can do that. When Toxic Aunt Theresa starts up, just walk away and leave the room. Why let her destroy your holidays? Don’t give her that much power. You’re an adult. Do yourself a favor. Leave.


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Dealing with a dysfunctional family over the holidays can be challenging, but it’s important to remember that you’re not alone. Set clear boundaries, take breaks when needed, focus on self-care, and communicate openly with your family members. Remember that you can create your own traditions, find support when needed, and let go of expectations. The most important thing is to be kind, compassionate, and understanding – both with your family and with yourself.

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