6 Tips to Handle a Family Member Who Drinks Too Much

by Kerry Hart

With the holiday season upon us, you may be excited about the fun you expect to have at upcoming holiday parties. Some families may not be as excited, as they may have family members that indulge too much during the holidays; this can turn responsible family members into babysitters. If this party animal happens to be your partner or a family member, the holiday season may be more stressful than fun. Below are six approaches to prevent or handle the situation during the holiday party season.


Throw a Dry Party

If the party is at your house, you are able to prevent alcohol from being served altogether to remove the question of who will or won’t drink too much. Family members will arrive home safely, and you may enjoy not feeling responsible to monitor adult behavior.

Tip the Odds in Your Favor

If throwing a dry party is out of the question, take advantage of being able to offer as little or as much alcohol as preferred. You can arrange what drinks to serve and ensure to serve water to guests. Provide wine spritzers instead of wine, beer instead of liquor, or make a signature cocktail for the party. No one needs to know the primary ingredient is fruit juice! Mocktails also make for a fun surprise. Leave the rum out of a mojito and you have a fun minty, drink to go with your magical holiday dinner.

Set up Activities

Keeping your party guests busy can be the key to preventing awkward situations. Provide various games at different locations within the party to keep your guests busy. When children are present at the party, providing activities will also create a distraction should that extra saucy family member cross the mile marker into drunk town.

Avoid Confrontation

Refrain from arguing with a drunk person; it is a losing battle. Remember that your family member is embarrassing themselves with their behavior, not you. Allow them to behave as they will, and should they appear augmentative, back away and perhaps bring up the insulting commentary at another time, preferably when this family member is sober.


Broken Record

At some point you may find it impossible to avoid confrontation with this problematic family member. One technique to try when a family member or partner may have had too much to drink may remind you of a broken record. Decide on a blanket statement and stick to it. Should this person approach you and try to start a confrontation, stick to your blanket statement, no matter what they say. Try something such as, “I’m sorry you feel that way. Let’s make a plan to discuss this on Monday.” Once they go a few rounds and are unable to coax an argument out of you, they will tire and move on. Remember it takes two to have an argument, and you do not have to participate.

Remove Yourself

If your uncle decides the family Thanksgiving dinner table is the best place to air his grievances with the family, remember you do not have to bear witness. Safety should is your first concern, and should you ever feel an inebriated family member has crossed a line, you give yourself permission to exit an uncomfortable situation.

Encourage Safety

When you notice a family member who has had too much to drink, ensure they have a safe ride arranged or a place to stay for the night. Keep in mind that the holidays can often be a difficult time for people. A person who turns to alcohol may be lacking in healthy coping skills and may need more help than a safe ride home. In the meantime, remember you get to choose with whom you spend your holiday season, as well as how you spend it!

Kerry Hart, LLMFT is a couple and family therapist in private practice. She is located in both East Lansing and Grand Rapids. www.kerryhartcounseling.com




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