Do you have to spend the holidays with unhealthy relatives? 

Proverbs 22:6 – Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. 

The holidays are when dysfunctional families pretend to get along. That’s the holidays. And the more dysfunctional your family is, the more pressure there is to pretend during the holidays. Because if you have a healthy family, you’re regularly doing life together, having dinners together, but if you’re not, you have one or two windows a year, maybe Thanksgiving, maybe Christmas, to connect and have something that looks like normal relationships.  

This is controversial but, for some of you, it’ll be a deliverance. People don’t get access to you, your marriage, your kids, your day off, your vacation, or your holidays because of their blood, but because of their character. 

Sometimes we tolerate and accommodate things from family that we would never tolerate from anyone else. It’s like “Why does Uncle Jerry always get to be drunk and annoying on Christmas?” He needs to either change his behavior or change his plans. If not, the least healthy person is deciding your most important days. If your extended family doubles down and says “Hey, you can’t say that, you can’t deal with that, we just sort of overlook that”, your immediate family can say “That doesn’t work for us. Either things change or we’ll find something else to do.” You have that ability and authority.

This is especially true when your kids are little. It’s like, “Do we want the least healthy people who we would never allow to spend time with our kids to spend the holidays with our kids?” No! Because your kids are more important than that, and they’ll get confused. If, for the rest of the year, we say, “This is how we do life, this is how we treat each other, this is how we honor each other” and then we allow someone in our extended family to completely undermine everything we’re trying to build in our kids, it just causes confusion.

For some of you, the holidays were the most anxious time. Your parents (or other relatives) had conflict and arguments and there were tears, disagreements, and tension. Why would you want to turn holidays into a negative anniversary and painful memory? I just want to give you permission not to be bitter, not to be mean, not to be spiteful, not to be harmful, but to be healthy. 

Does this encourage and embolden you when thinking about dysfunctional, unhealthy family members that you’ve felt like you’re forced to spend time with? Have honest conversations with your spouse about how to handle holidays and family gatherings with these people and what boundaries may need to be made. 

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