Newswise — For many, the holiday season is about family and traditions—eggnog, movies, food, caroling or just reminiscing. One of the traditions that carries from year to year might involve past disagreements and sensitive subjects. You can avoid the negativity this season with some helpful advice from Dr. Linda Enders, associate professor of human development and family studies at The University of Alabama.

Be honest with yourself before you make any visits.We raise our expectations too high when it comes to family gatherings. We tell ourselves that this year will different. It usually is not. We tend to fall back into the same roles and patterns that we always do—the black sheep is still the black sheep.

Not all families are perfect, and the holidays are often the only chance some relatives have to see each other. This can make for a few tense moments amid the celebration. Think about any issues, good and bad, that may arise.

Be prepared.Just like the good traditions, the bad ones seem to emerge each year. The reality is that there can be a lot of tension when you bring multiple generations of family to one place. Disagreements are likely, but we can control the way we behave so that we minimize time spent arguing and enjoy the holidays as a family.

Rehearse.Practice, practice, practice. Once you have prepared yourself mentally, rehearse how you will respond to the things that seem to come up each year. Recall what was said in the past and find more diplomatic ways to calm the situation. Asking to postpone the conversation until after the holidays might help.

Be upfront.Perhaps this year you can't afford to buy as many gifts. It would be a big mistake to show up without a gift and expect everyone to know the reason. Don't always assume that your family will understand your situation. The best way to avoid confrontation is to make it a non-issue. You'll have more time to enjoy things you like about family gatherings.

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