3 Ways to Deal With Toxic Family at Christmas

Heather Larson
4 min readDec 25, 2021

Remember this holiday: if your relatives are toxic, you have every right to not accept bad behavior, excuse yourself, and leave quietly.

Photo by Chad Madden on Unsplash

The above is a random thought I tweeted out tonight, Christmas Eve 2021. It rapidly got a bunch of likes and retweets.

🤔 Hmm… I must be onto something. Here are just a few of my tips on how to deal with toxic family members during the holidays.

How to Handle Toxic Family at Christmas (or any holiday or event)

I have a *little* experience with toxic family (understatement of the year). I also worked professionally as a para-social worker, aka sober coach, in the addiction field for 4.5 years. (Toxic family central!)

What’s the top thing toxic family members lack 365 days of the year?


You’re invited to a Christmas dinner or other family event and you’re already dreading it. You need a plan. My biggest mistake over the years was hoping, “Maybe this time will be different.”

But as the years go by and you get some therapy, you begin to realize it’s never different. You can leave the family altogether. Or you can keep trying to interact with them, in which case, you need a plan.

1. Go In With a Plan That Includes Hard Boundaries

It’s harder when the toxic folks are coming to your house. If you’re hosting, your hard boundary may have to be, “If they do X, I will kick them out for the day.” It could be lesser, like, “I will stop inappropriate conversations and redirect to a different subject,” Or, “I will separate Aunt Janice and Cousin Jimmy if they start talking about politics.”

Of course, when you’re going to see family at their home, you can leave. So what’s the tipping point? What bad behavior will you not accept by excusing yourself quietly and leaving?

This is hard because you may be the only one keeping boundaries. Other family members may be enabling bad behavior and that may lead to you feeling as though you’ve been ganged up on.

Maybe the Aunt who drinks too much and starts dancing is the sign it’s time to go. Maybe…

Heather Larson

Hi 👋 I’m Heather Larson! I’m data-driven content writer coming from traditional media. I’m a veteran broadcaster, radio personality, and journalist.