MENTAL HEALTH

How to repair family relations during the holidays

Ways to brighten the season

 

If you’re fighting with someone in your family, you might want to hurry up and call a truce.

The holiday season can be a good excuse for estranged relatives to reconcile. But you’ll need to start the process well before you sit down at your big family gathering, says Melanie Booth-Butterfield, a professor in the department of communication studies at West Virginia University, who has lectured on how to manage family disputes and developed a step-by-step approach for reconciliation.

“There’s a lot of pressure for the holidays to be perfect, for everyone to be together and be happy,” says Ms. Booth-Butterfield. If you’ve been sparring with someone you love and want to repair the bond, she says, “it’s much better to have a lot of smaller talks starting somewhere neutral, like Starbucks.”

How do you repair a serious rupture in a relationship?

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Start with yourself, Dr. Booth-Butterfield says. Stop ruminating on the issues that caused the rift. When you dwell on negative thoughts you create a downward spiral, she says. Each bad thought leads to another. Break this pattern by replacing the negative thoughts with something else. Think of a beautiful view, such as a sunset. Listen to happy music. Watch a funny movie. Read a great book. Play with a puppy.