You’ve lost weight! What have you been doing?
So when are you getting married?
What about pursuing further studies – like a PhD?
How come things didn’t work out between you two?
Your hair is thinning so much! Why is that?
You’re already 28. How much longer do you need to wait?
Oh wow, you’re actually here. I thought you’d be somewhere overseas per usual.
Can’t believe you used to be chunky and now you’re like this!
You won’t die if you eat a little ice cream.
Get married soon…we want to go to a wedding.
Let me start by saying I’m incredibly blessed to be part of a quintessential Indian American family: large, close-knit, loving, and wonderfully crazy. I wouldn’t trade that for anything. In fact, one of the things I most look forward to each year is my maternal-side family reunion – 32 of us living under two or three neighboring roofs for an entire week. And with my paternal side of the family being a five-minute drive away, there is no shortage of memorable family dinners, weekend trips, get-togethers, and sleepovers.
That being said, family dynamics are never perfect. The above list, which includes the current top 10 questions and remarks I get asked on repeat, is a testament to that. Admittedly, I find it more amusing than anything else, but there was a time when the thought of needing to respond to such comments filled me with nothing but dread.
With the holiday season already upon us, and more celebrations still to come, the anticipation and anxiety of dealing with certain family members is bound to rise and overshadow the excitement of reconnecting with loved ones. While interactions and disconnects vary by family, here are a few tactics to try to make your holiday as enjoyable as possible.
You don’t have to answer questions you don’t want to.
It’s perfectly all right to respond with “I’d rather not talk about it” if an uncomfortable topic is mentioned. We often get caught up in wondering how the other person will feel if we speak our mind…at the expense of our own comfort. There’s always a way to express your discomfort and space in a respectful way. Say it with a smile, appreciate their concern, and switch topics…which brings me to the next tip.
Take on the role of asker earlier.
Before family members even have the opportunity to interrogate you about your personal life or offer unsolicited advice, greet them and ask them about their life. As we at Integrative Nutrition teach, ask open-ended questions that focus on positive happenings: “What’s new and good these days?” People like to talk about themselves, and giving them an opportunity to do so can take the spotlight off you.
Think of fun games or activities that’ll involve the whole group.
If there’s any constructive way to divert negativity and tension, it’s a good game – nothing too competitive but something collaborative that gets people laughing.
Most recently, over Thanksgiving break, my cousin led a few improv games, like The Excuse, where one person leaves the room while the rest of the group comes up with funny, outlandish reasons why that person was “late to work.” The person then returns and has to guess the reason for their lateness, based on a few “employees” acting out the excuse.
The best part is the activity involves family members of all ages – children and grandparents alike.
Take what is said with a grain (or two) of salt.
Observations about the slightest fluctuation in your weight or inquiries about your relationship status may not be a personal attack on you but likely a reflection of their insecurities or what their ideal world looks like. Of course, it’s easier said than done to reach a point where you can laugh it off, but accepting who you are and where you are on your personal journey helps. Try having a go-to affirmation, like “I teach others to believe in me by believing in myself.”
Bring a close friend with you.
If circumstances are less than bearable, consider bringing a friend along. After exchanging basic pleasantries, you’ll have company of your own choosing for the rest of the evening.
On that note, it’s important to realize that the quality of our relationships has a significant bearing on our well-being and happiness. Relationships are one of the four pillars of what we call primary food, what nourishes you that can’t be found on your plate. While it may not always be possible to create and sustain positive bonds with the family you’re born into, you can seek out and surround yourself with those who love and support you and those you can lean on.
How do you handle family dynamics during the holidays? Share your tips in the comments below!
Want to learn more about cultivating positive relationships and well-being? Check out our curriculum.