Does your mother-in-law think you’re not hard enough on your kids and tries to make up for it by yelling at them? They’re just being kids! And, frankly, you’ve got this.

Maybe your dad has always been critical of you and you just can’t stand it when he’s now critical of your partner and your kids. You feel yourself getting more and more upset.

Not only are you dealing with the stress of getting everything done, and your child’s big emotions- you have to navigate the complicated relationships in your extended family. Watch the video here or read on.

Here are 4 big ideas to help you navigate all those challenges with extended family at the holidays- or any time of year.

1. Remember that everyone is doing the best they can.

Your mother-in-law loves your kids, but she doesn’t actually know how to get them to listen without yelling. That’s how she was raised and how she raised your partner. Take a deep breath and remind yourself that she is doing the best she can. This isn’t for the benefit of your mother-in-law, it’s for YOU. You will find that if you give other people as much compassion as you can muster, you will feel better and have more strength and energy to deal with the situation.

2. Manage Yourself.

You can only control yourself. Most of the time we are trying to change a situation by trying to change the other person!. (It never works!) But if you make a change, the relationship will change. The first step is to learn to not act when you are upset.

You WILL get upset; it’s your job to manage your feelings. How do you do this? STOP-DROP-and-BREATHE.

Stop what you’re doing (snappy retort, raised voice?)

Drop your agenda. You don’t have to solve things right this minute.

Breathe. You need to calm yourself. It will FEEL like an emergency because you’ve been hijacked by your body’s fight-flight-freeze response. Take a few deep breaths or take a break if you need more time to shift your energy. Laugh, cry, meditate, talk to a friend.

(If this is particularly hard for you, check out my free How To Stop Yelling At Your Kids course. It works for in-laws and extended family also!)

3. Focus on connection.

What do you like about the challenging person in your family? We often spend most of our time thinking about the negatives. But if we focus on the positives, we will have an easier time. Make a list if it helps! “What you focus on grows.”

If you don’t see eye-to-eye on hot topics? (Politics, religion, ahem.. parenting?) You don’t have to agree to love someone. Politely agree to disagree. Don’t take it up with that person if you sense that a polite disagreement isn’t possible.

4. Put kind, firm limits in place.

As adults and parents, we are in charge of taking care of ourselves and our children. That means setting healthy boundaries and standing up for ourselves and our children. This can be really hard!

If your relative tells you you’re doing it wrong?

Kindly but firmly tell your relative, “Thank you. I appreciate your concern. I will take that into consideration. I know you have our best interests at heart, But don’t worry! So do I! I’ve got this.”

If the environment is feeling too stressful, take a break. Give yourself and your children a time-in.

If you have someone in your life who is truly challenging no matter what you do, put on your invisible forcefield! Surround yourself with light, love, energy and know that you are safe. Take some time to process all the difficult feelings that this person might bring up in you.

If it’s toxic or dangerous, and you’ve tried all the tips I’ve given above, consider whether the visit is something you want to continue, now or in the future. No one deserves to be treated badly. You might need a little distance.

When things feel hard with someone- stop and remember that they are doing the best they can. Manage yourself and your reaction to the challenging person in your life. Find ONE THING you like about about them. And put up those kind, firm boundaries. What I am asking you to do is hard and requires an enormous amount of reflection and work. But you can do this!!

If you missed the first two posts in this Holiday Family Stress series, check out “7 Tips to Beat Holiday Stress in Your Family” and “When Kids Just Want More Stuff at the Holidays.

If you would like a printable download of these tips, you can sign up below.

How To Stop Yelling At Your Kids

Do you want to learn how to stop yelling at your kids? Sign up for my free e-course! You get all the tools and support you need to be the parent you want to be and enjoy your kids again!

Sarah Rosensweet is a peaceful parenting coach and educator. She lives in Toronto with her husband and three big kids (ages 10, 13, and 16). Sarah teaches parents a non-punitive, connection-based approach that uses firm limits with lots of empathy. Sarah is an API certified parenting educator and is certified by Dr. Laura Markham as an Aha! Peaceful Parenting Coach. Find her at

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