How to Deal with Family over the Holidays: For Spoonies

The holidays: a great time to destress and bask in the glory of happiness and good will.  Right?  While that sounds absolutely amazing, most of us will also have to attend family gatherings throughout the season.  These can be times of great enjoyment, or great disaster, but I’ve put together a guide to hopefully help you to save some spoons and worm your way out of or avoid altogether the awkward conversations that come with being the sick kid in the family.


The relative who claims they know how to cure you.

Let’s just put this one out in the open.  No one wants to be sick, disabled, or in pain.  You try everything you can to have as many spoons as possible and it can be really discouraging when someone says “Well if you just did A, B, and C you’d be fine.”  I know you’ve probably already tried what they’re telling you, or what they say is downright insane, but you have two options here.  You can smile and nod, or say you already tried it.  I myself have often used the grin and bear it strategy because sometimes I just don’t have the spoons to argue.

The relative who asks “Are you better yet?”

I hate lying, but telling the truth can just earn you a look of disappointment and then a “Well maybe you would be if you tried ____.”  I do my best to answer these questions vaguely, with an “I’m doing okay” or share a small accomplishment I recently made such as “I can bike 2 miles now!”  This puts a focus on what you are doing, instead of what you aren’t.

The relative who doesn’t believe that you’re really sick.

There’s always that one person who doesn’t believe you.  And it hurts.  “You’re too young to have that” is something I was truly shocked to hear from one of the last people I would expect, but how did I handle it?  I jokingly replied that he could take that up with my doctors (okay maybe I was only half joking, but you get the point).  The sad fact is that sometimes age is used to illegitimize suffering, and this person is probably saying this because it makes them uncomfortable.  I am not giving them an excuse for not believing you because there isn’t one, but it is probably best to change the subject with this person if you can’t get out of the conversation altogether.

The relative who asks what you’ve been up to.

Schoolwork and doctors appointments is not a fun answer.  My best advice for this would be to come up with a couple of things to say beforehand – it can be a lifesaver.  If you’re afraid you’re going to forget them, make a note in your phone.  Whenever I have an idea I add it to my notes and I find that this helps me to recall things later.

How to Get out of a Conversation:

  • Need to get a drink
  • Need to sit down
  • Need to take meds
  • Need to go somewhere quiet
  • Make furtive eye contact with another family member who can come to your rescue (my sister and I have it worked out where if we notice one of us has been talking to someone for a while and may need a break, we’ll call the other over or go check in to make sure everything is going well)

This doesn’t just apply to family gatherings!  Odds are you’ll find yourself at quite a few events this season, and these techniques can be employed for even an awkward run in with an old friend at the grocery store.  I hope this post is helpful in relieving some of that holiday stress; enjoy your time with friends and family and embrace the season of giving.

Share this post with the spoonies in your life who are stressed about dealing with family this December, I’m sure they’ll be happy to know you’re thinking about them.  Happy Holidays!

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