How to Help Your Clients Deal with Difficult Family at the Holidays

Beverly FlaxingtonBeverly Flaxington is a practice management consultant. She answers questions from advisors facing human resource issues. To submit yours, email us here.

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The holidays should be happy times. But advisors, who work with families all the time, know the holidays can exacerbate already difficult relationships. It doesn’t matter how much money the family has, how old people are or how many holidays they may celebrate – for some people, family members make the celebration less than enjoyable! Family dynamics that have simmered for years will often rear up at the holidays and sit down at the dining table or around the cozy fireplace.

You likely have clients who are stressed out or having difficulty coping. Instead of a “new year” filled with optimism, many people walk out of December and into January with a nagging sense of dread. Family issues are particularly hard because of the emotional component. You are their financial advisor, but you are often the coach, counselor, psychologist and family mediator.

I’m often asked for ideas at this time of year to help family members cope. As a gift to our readers, I’ll pass on my best ideas for you to share with your clients as needed (and maybe these will be helpful in your own families).

  • Realize you do have a choice. Yes, it is very hard to be hurt, angry or otherwise frustrated by a family member. But remember that we always retain the right to our own response and our own reactions. The family member may do what they’ve always done, but you don’t have to respond in the way you always have in return. Choose this year to break the cycle and create a plan in advance to deal with them.
  • Remember that “this too shall pass.” The holidays are a point in time. Granted, they are loaded with emotional content, but they are very short-lived. Keep your perspective when the difficult person or people start in with whatever it is that upsets you. Use those four words as your mantra. Soon, it will be the end of December, and it will all be over, and you’ll have another year to prepare!