How to Keep Your Cool With Hot-headed Relatives

The holiday season is typically spent with family which for some brings plenty of drama. Especially if alcohol enters the equation. Here are some tips on how to keep your calm when the holidays get heated.

What Makes the Holidays Difficult for Families?

Different political views, family dynamics, and financial stress can all escalate into arguments. For some family members, celebrating is an excuse to drink more alcohol. They may walk right past the pimento cheese appetizers and head straight for the alcohol. In fact, alcohol sales peak between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day in the United States. 1

According to Dr. Thomas Britton, CEO of American Addiction Centers, “while some people drink to celebrate, others drink because it helps them feel less depressed, less alone, or less bored.1” And with increased alcohol intake comes lowered inhibitions and potentially inappropriate situations. Although you cannot control other people’s actions—as much as we might want to – being prepared beforehand can help.

Tips to Keep a Family Dinner Drama Free

Although not always 100% avoidable, there are some tips and tricks to keep your holiday season drama free including:

  • Stick to safe topics (movies, music, sports) and away from emotionally charged topics (politics, religion, etc.).
  • Set an example, and behave how you would want others to behave.
  • Provide fun and festive alcohol-free beverage options.
  • Take a break away from the table if things get too intense (go for a walk, play with the kids, help with cooking, or cleanup).
  • Have compassion for yourself and others (you may say something you regret or someone else may say something that upsets you, practice having compassion).

It’s important to remember, it’s ok to say “no” to a get-together that makes you anxious or uncomfortable. Ultimately, you need to protect your own mental health during the holidays and other seasons as well.

How to Handle a Relative that Drinks too much

SNL has a reoccurring character “Drunk Uncle” that pokes fun at that one family member who always drinks too much and causes a scene. Our “drunk uncle” often shares inappropriate jokes about politics, yells, slurs his words and ends the segment crying.

If you do have someone coming over for a holiday meal or are going to dinner with a relative you can set boundaries, suggest a daytime gathering, make sure there are activities planned, and limit drinks.

If you suspect they may have an alcohol addiction, holiday gatherings may be a good opportunity to talk to them (when they are sober) about getting help. Oxford Treatment Center is a drug and alcohol rehab in Mississippi that offers multiple levels of care to fit the unique needs of each patient. This includes:

For more information on how to start treatment, reach out to an Oxford admissions navigator available 24/7 at . If you suspect you or a loved one might have a drug or alcohol addiction, don’t wait till after the holidays. Seek help today.

Was this page helpful?
Thank you for your feedback.

American Addiction Centers (AAC) is committed to delivering original, truthful, accurate, unbiased, and medically current information. We strive to create content that is clear, concise, and easy to understand.

Read our full editorial policy

While we are unable to respond to your feedback directly, we'll use this information to improve our online help.