Let go of unrealistic expectations
Whenever families get together, everybody tends to "do what they always do". They are not likely to drop their usual roles and become more sensitive and thoughtful. Expecting family members to be their typical selves takes pressure off everyone.
Limit alcohol intake
Drinking alcohol tends to make everyone more impulsive, easy to provoke and less likely to stay away from conflict.
Accept changes that happened in the family in the past year
Family get-togethers remind us all of losses and challenges of the past year, such as deaths, divorce, those who moved away, remarriages. Reflect on these changed realities before the holidays start to get used to the new situations and relationships, so you can enjoy the family as it is now.
Limit time with difficult family members
Respect your own limits in dealing with difficult family members. Reduce the stress by spending only as much time as you can handle and then exit gracefully.
Write it down
When an issue bubbles up, make a note of it and decide to deal with the problem after the holidays , when expectations are more realistic and emotions are less likely to get t out of control.