This guest post, by Jude Bijou, MA, MFT, psychotherapist, offers some “free family therapy” for the holidays.  Bijou has some great ideas on how to have a more harmonious holiday season…Gives happy, HEALTHY holidays a new meaning, huh?!

Free Family Therapy for the Holidays: How to Handle Holiday Controllers, Critics, and Coaches

by Jude Bijou, MA, MFT

Around the holidays, therapists hear their clients voice versions of these common complaints: “My mother-in-law will try to take over the kitchen,” or “My know-it-all sister always has a better way to do things,” or “My relatives ask pointed questions about my job/relationship/finances.” Sound familiar?

The holidays offer mixed blessings. On the one hand, they’re a time to get together with one’s extended family, catch up with family news, and reconnect over a meal. On the other hand, we often find ourselves trapped indoors with people who are rude, critical, controlling, nosy, and insensitive.

When you’re surrounded by family, don’t let yourself become a battered target of unsolicited advice. Here are six ways to handle the situation.

Tell them you’re not seeking advice.
A good way to stop a bull who’s charging at you with unsolicited advice is to fend him or her off with a simple statement such as, “Thanks, but I’m not looking for advice right now.” If the person continues, lovingly say it again. And again, if necessary!

Acknowledge their good intention.
Mention that you appreciate the person’s support and concern. If you want, tell the person you might love his or her advice and input later–when you’re ready to ask for it.

Firmly stand your ground.
Sometimes, especially with particularly pushy people, it’s necessary to tell them it’s not helpful for you to receive unsolicited advice. Say it lovingly, but if they persist, tell them that you’re starting to feel angry or frustrated and you’d like them to stop, please. Repeat and repeat some more.

Realize that it’s not about you.
When people feel compelled to tell you what you should do, it’s good to remember that what they’re saying and what’s unconsciously motivating them has little to do with you. They may need to feel important. They may be looking for love or respect from you or others. The reality is that you are fine. They have unexpressed anger and are targeting it on you. They forget that their domain is themselves and that their job is to find their own happiness. Rather, they believe they are entitled to mosey into someone else’s territory without permission.

Appreciate them when they’re not giving advice.
If you notice that a critical or pushy relative is being empathetic or listening with sensitivity, be sure to give him or her kudos for being so wonderful, caring, or attentive. In other words, catch them being good. Praising what you do like may subtly sink in and help to change his or her behavior.

Let out those pent-up emotions.
After a long day of fending off critical, over-controlling relatives who’ve tested the boundaries of your patience and politeness, you need to get all that anger and possibly sadness out of your system. Find a private place to pound your fists, stomp your feet, growl, and cry. You’ll feel better instantly, and ready to face them all over again tomorrow for the holiday brunch!
Author Bio:  Jude Bijou, MA, MFT, a psychotherapist, professional educator, and workshop leader, developed a theory of Attitude Reconstruction®  over the course of more than 30 years working with clients as a licensed marriage and family therapist, and is the subject of her award-winning book, Attitude Reconstruction: A Blueprint for Building a Better Life.