Family reunions are part of every single festival, be it the Winter Solstice or Chinese New Year. It is the focal point of every festival or observance, as the family gets together to celebrate the year’s blessings and the good fortune that allows all members to be together. They are meant to be happy occasions to count one’s blessings, bask in the presence of family, and reminisce on memories of departed loved ones.
Yet not every family is alike, and the dynamics of human relationships are myriad in their complexities. It is inevitable that some will find themselves with less-than-ideal family relationships.
Rifts in the family could be caused by many things. It could be from emotional hurts from the past that were never healed, to differences of opinion on how to manage a terminally ill parent’s medical care and funeral arrangement, or even dissatisfaction with inheritance between siblings after a loved one’s passing. Family rifts that were never properly addressed could make a family reunion more difficult to get through during festivals or commemoration of a departed loved one.
Hence, it is important to remember the purpose of the reunion and anticipate how you can get through it in a manner that honours the spirit of maintaining family unity and togetherness.
Here are some of the simple things you can do to minimise conflict, which could lead to improved family dynamics with time and persistence.
Understand Why You Get Irritated
Comments from family members that often trigger you are typically ones aimed at your character and can be particularly personal if it references something you did long ago. They often feel as if you haven’t changed for the better.
Another reason for your irritation could be due to cultural, gender or generation-related practices that are imposed on you, which you may feel aren’t necessary or even appropriate any longer.
You may also find yourself losing your temper at family members easily and more often because is because of past precedence, whereby an angry response is typically practised, and the family had “accepted” the behaviour.
Anticipate The Warning Signs & Pre-determine Action
The more an issue is important to you, the more intense your response may be. While you can’t control another person’s behaviour, you can learn to anticipate them and plan accordingly. Reflect on the situations, people, or things that may be said that would trigger you and think about how you can react to them in a way that is healthy and pre-empt those situations – whether its keeping an interaction short or deciding not to react by moving on to a different topic.
Don’t Create Factions
Factions in group dynamics refer to what happens when two people disagree and one person pulls a third person into the situation to determine who is “right”. Factions are the base by which family feuds are built on, as it creates and enforces an ‘us against them’ mindset. It can also make the one that we conscript as our ‘ally’ resentful. While there is nothing wrong with disagreeing with someone in your family, make sure you disagree by yourself.
Save It For Later
Family reunions are rarely the place to sort out outstanding issues. While honest communication is important, you need to consider if the issue is crucial enough to settle at that moment or if it can wait for later where you can discuss it in private? If it is an issue that is rooted in deeper and old hurts, it may be better to discuss it with a professional first before any family confrontation.
Ultimately, reunions are a time to foster family camaraderie between not only amongst ourselves, but also for strengthening ties between future generations of the family.
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