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AARP Expert

#6 - Caregiver Holiday Survival Tip: Anticipate Holiday Hot Buttons

In addition to joy, any holiday can be fraught with tension, stress, sadness and grief. This year with the pandemic, all feelings are magnified. So my next tip is:

Anticipate holiday hot buttons

Are there holiday activities or toxic relatives that trigger stress or unhappy memories? Perhaps feelings of grief or loss overcome you at certain times of day or with certain holiday triggers. Are there disagreements about how to celebrate this year? Do unhelpful relatives arrive for the holidays and criticize your caregiving? Or maybe they arrive without checking with you first, and you are terrified they will put your loved ones' health and safety in jeopardy? Whether in person or on video chat, old family issues may flare up as we plan and carry out holiday activities.


It may be best to limit your exposure to — or even avoid — certain places, events, conversations or people. If you can't do that, prepare yourself.

  • Minimize the drama. Just don't engage if it feels like there is potential for a blow-up.
  • Don't try to resolve problems over the holidays. You can always plan to address problems after the holidays are over, but for now, just try to focus on joy and meaning.
  • Try short encounters and develop quick exit strategies.
  • Mentally put yourself in a protective bubble, letting negative energy bounce off without hurting, annoying or distressing you.
  • Try to find neutral ways to interact with family this year - short video chats, or focus on baking together while video chatting, watch holiday movies together online or with your phones on mute while you watch the same movie, find a new way to manage present-opening. If your holiday family gatherings always lead to tears or fights, perhaps shorter gatherings via video will be less contentious! 
  • Plan for something that nurtures your soul after an activity that may be stressful or sad for you. It always feels good to know you have something relaxing or fun coming ahead!
  • If you are worried about being alone over the holidays this year, reach out to volunteer organizations and find out if there is someone who is isolated with whom you can connect this holiday season - you'll help them and yourself at the same time. 

Remember that everyone's tensions are higher this year. People are on edge about the pandemic and the election and finances and so much more. Try to look at the holidays as a break from all of that. Avoid the 'hot button' conversations and activities and enjoy the fulfilling ones! 


Take care,

Amy Goyer, AARP Family & Caregiving Expert

Author, Juggling Life, Work and Caregiving


P.S. - below are links to my others Holiday Tips!


#10 - Caregiver Holiday Survival Tip: Ask for and Accept Help

#9 - Caregiver Holiday Survival Tip: Connect with Other Caregivers

#8 - Caregiver Holiday Survival Tip: Keep Up with Self-Care

#7 - Caregiver Holiday Survival Tip: Mind Your Holiday Mindset

#5 - Caregiver Holiday Survival Tip: Approach Gift-Giving More Efficiently

#4 - Caregiver Holiday Survival Tip: Adjust Holiday Meal Plans

#3 - Caregiver Holiday Survival Tip: Start NEW Traditions!

#2 - Caregiver Holiday Survival Tip: Simplify your Holiday Activities

#1 - Caregiver Holiday Survival Tip: Focus on What is Most Meaningful

Social Butterfly

There shouldn’t be many such situations this year what with the ban on inside gatherings.  People don’t usually push their own hot button!  🖲

AARP Expert

@2Papa True! However I fear many people will still have inside gatherings anyway, and  those tough topics can come up within families! Especially around caregiving - even on video or phone gatherings! 

Super Contributor

Most important hot topics to avoid.  Stay the h--- away from politics and religion, with most emphasis on the latter.

AARP Expert

@MartinG987436 I agree with you - when you know there are differences of opinion, the holidays are not the best time bring up those subjects! And if someone else does you can choose not to engage 🙂 


Happy Holidays! 


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