Tips for healthy communication during the holidays

Reading Time: 2 minutes Positive and healthy communication can be essential to keeping the holiday spirit joyful instead of stressful or exhausting.

Graphic by Kristan Whitney

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Holidays can be stressful for everyone. Get-togethers and traveling requires a lot of planning and communication, and sometimes it can be tense. College students, especially ones who live far away from their families or friends, often need to have difficult conversations about how they will approach this season of celebration.  

Understanding that every individual and their communication is unique is a good first step to participating in healthy communication. Healthy communication differs for each person and family. Some families enjoy emailing months before the holidays to work out plans. Sometimes texting or phone calls work well Some families may prefer to be prepared months ahead of time, but others might be very casual about it. Other times, get-togethers might happen with friends. Each person should figure out their preferences when planning. Texting has the advantage of being quick., Everything can be written down, and people can respond when they need to.  

One good approach to healthy communication is going in with an open mind. If communications occur with an open mind, holidays could be based around actual desires instead of expectations for holidays. Traditional celebrations, such as opening gifts at certain times, might not be meaningful or even possible for some groups and families. Conversations can always start by outlining expectations, so that there is upfront communication and any needs are met.  

Being an engaged listener is an important aspect of discussion, especially when  discussing get-together plans. This goes along with keeping an open mind—keep an open ear too! Lawrence Robinson, Jeanne Segal, Ph.D. and Melinda Smith, M.A. on recommends, “Avoid interrupting or trying to redirect the conversation to your concerns. … Listening is not the same as waiting for your turn to talk. You can’t concentrate on what someone’s saying if you’re forming what you’re going to say next.”  

Understand that by working with close friends or family, they want to listen to concerns. Bringing them up in a timely manner and taking turns to address concerns may allow for all concerns to be addressed.  

College students often move away from family, and this can be a time for “finding oneself.” Family expectations can be difficult, and there can be a lot of demands on someone’s time during the holidays. Finals are even close to the holidays! Envisioning personal expectations for the upcoming months can assist in setting boundaries. Say yes to what is enjoyable and possible to attend. Say no and set boundaries for events that will not work! Setting boundaries can also make the events that someone does go to much more enjoyable. Boundaries look different for every person, but they can start with love and compassion, as well as firmness. Firmness and compassion do not contradict each other! 

Communicating needs, from allergies to driving, is also a good way to ensure comfort and fun during the holidays. For those who do not have family nearby or family they want to celebrate the holidays with, communicating needs with friends, roommates, and partners is a good way to make the holidays meaningful. 

If conflict arises in family parties, keep a cool head and remember that engaging is not mandatory, even if it feels like it is. If someone does engage, the conversation can be civil even disagree with each other. 

Positive and effective discussions and communication can make all the difference between a stressful time of celebration and a positive one. From setting boundaries to finding a communication style that works for every family, there are tools for every person to utilize! 

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