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Lions and Tigers and FAMILY REUNIONS; Oh My!

Are you having a family reunion this summer? Is it your family? The in-laws? Whichever family is involved there are sure to be many personalities that show up. Some you appreciate and others you would rather run and scream from. But no matter what, you find yourself there, surrounding the grill or snack table…Review the situation

Family gatherings can create stress for many people for differing reasons. Your family knows all of your buttons and you have had years of ingrained patterns of behaviors with your family members.

Families have very unique personalities and sometimes these personalities can clash, and the thought of being together can be scary, similar to being thrown in a pen with lions and tigers, well maybe not that bad….

Clashing personalities can result in hard and hurt feelings that come with certain reactions/behaviors among family members. These are called family dynamics, some are good and others can be dysfunctional, to say the least! Every family is different, as is the resulting family dynamic. And trust me when I say, ALL families have DYNAMICS.

Your family’s cast of characters may include such personalities as: Mr. Negative, Aunt Nosey, Crazy Uncle, Miss Perfect, the slacker/moocher, the unruly child, muddy paws the dog, Cousin One-Up and the know-it-all. No matter what you call them, you likely have some relatives who stir up family controversy or who simply get on your nerves.

Families are given to us at birth or through marriage or other relationships. Family members are not chosen in most cases; rather we are born into them or thrown into them. At your family reunion, all the personalities come together, for better or worse.

Here are some suggestions for a happier family reunion:

  • Stick to the purpose. Why are you going to the family reunion? Is it to connect or re-connect with relatives? Then focus on what you want – not what you don’t.  Smile. Play. Help out. Don’t look for reasons to be offended.
  • Stop texting, start talking. The purpose of a family reunion is to see people in person; you don’t have to text and call. So put away the screens and enjoy each other.
  • Don’t let family push your buttons. Others push your buttons because they get a response, your emotions and your behavior.  Deactivate those buttons. Walk away, laugh, change your reaction. If you keep doing the same things that always lead to frustration, you’ll keep getting frustrated.  Do something different.
  • Let people be who they are. One of the biggest sources of conflict is that we want family members to change.  They will probably never change. So if you keep expecting them to, you are setting yourself up for disappointment.  Set appropriate expectations for people.
  • HAVE FUN! Take your mind off of the serious stuff, and focus on the positives at the family reunion — like the 99 percent of the relatives you get along with.

If you know that going to a family event will cause you more distress and angst than joy in your life, it is okay to avoid those events. But, use this as a last resort and focus on the family members that bring you happiness.

Give it a chance with some of the above suggestions and you may be pleasantly surprised.

If you would like to address and try to resolve some of these family issues, consider mediation as a process that can help. Sitting down with a conflict resolution specialist who can facilitate your conversation can help you and future family reunions be happy and healthy!

Happy Family Reunion!!

Adapted from Family Reunion Planning Kit