Self-help

Holiday Survival Guide: For the Person Whose Family Has Different Religious Views

The holidays might be tricky for people who share different religious views from their families. Perhaps you grew up with a family who was very devout and went to church every Sunday, but as you got older, you developed your own beliefs, even converting to another faith. Or, maybe you don’t practice any religion at […]

Grow Therapy therapist Gregorio (Greg) Lozano III LPC By Greg Lozano, LPC

Updated on Jan 12, 2024

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The holidays might be tricky for people who share different religious views from their families. Perhaps you grew up with a family who was very devout and went to church every Sunday, but as you got older, you developed your own beliefs, even converting to another faith. Or, maybe you don’t practice any religion at all anymore.

Since holiday festivities often have religious undertones, clashing belief systems within a family can make the whole atmosphere feel full of tension. There might be awkward conversations, misunderstandings, or fights. All this can lead to stress, anxiety, and even a sense of isolation.

Here are six tips for navigating the holidays when your family shares different religious views from you: 

1. Stay curious

“Curiosity is your friend,” says Stacy Thiry, a licensed mental health counselor with Grow Therapy. “Be respectful of the beliefs of others while encouraging open communication to find some possible common ground or shared values.” Remember the golden rule of treating others how you want to be treated. You want people to respect your religious views, so it’s important to be respectful of others’ too. 

2. Encourage diversity

It’s absolutely possible to have a holiday gathering where multiple cultures and/or religions are respected and celebrated.

If you and your family members with different religious beliefs are accepting, you can use this as a fun opportunity to encourage diversity and learn more about other religions and cultures, Thiry suggests.

“Allow each person to share a favorite tradition or food item with others and show a genuine interest in why this is important to them,” she says.

3. Set boundaries

Setting boundaries is always a healthy thing to do. In this situation, boundaries could look like opting out of one-on-one conversations with your particularly zealous or judgmental relatives, or having a discussion ahead of time that you’d rather keep religious debates out of the night. 

Additionally, Thiry says you can state a boundary that differing opinions should not to be expressed from a place of anger – meaning no aggressive tones, shouting, or insults. Let’s try to keep the drama to a minimum, shall we?

4. Remember that we most likely can’t change others’ views

“It can be really easy to feel anger, frustration, sadness, worry, and other uncomfortable emotions when someone has different beliefs than our own. Sometimes, we may think that these emotions call us to argue, fight, or defend things,” says Sean Abraham, a licensed clinical social worker with Grow Therapy. But even if you feel extremely frustrated, getting into a fight with your family members isn’t the best move – and it’s probably not going to make anybody feel better.

It is highly unlikely that a heated conversation during a holiday event will result in any real change on either side.

- Sean Abraham, LCSW



“At the end of the day, each person is going to believe the things they believe and it is highly unlikely that a heated conversation during a holiday event will result in any real change on either side,” Abraham says. “Reminding ourselves of our lack of control over others’ thoughts and beliefs can be somewhat liberating, as we no longer feel the need to focus on doing the impossible.”

5. Practice assertive communication skills

As always, communication is key. Abraham suggests practicing assertive communication to get your point across when you’re in a place of conflict. “To avoid being passive (focusing only on the needs of others) or aggressive (focusing only on your own needs), practicing assertive communication involves expressing your own needs while also respecting the needs of others,” he says.

Assertive communication allows you to healthily navigate the delicate balance between honoring your own beliefs and acknowledging the differences within your family. “While this does not always result in the best possible outcome, it does offer the best chance at the best outcome, since passivity will usually end up in your needs being unmet, and aggression will usually end up in unending fights where no one’s needs are met,” says Abraham.

6. Seek support through therapy

If family dynamics, religious or otherwise are affecting your mental health and causing you distress, consider getting help from a therapist. With Grow Therapy, you can find an online therapist who accepts your insurance and specializes in your needs.

Frequently Asked Questions

About the author
Grow Therapy therapist Gregorio (Greg) Lozano III LPC Greg Lozano, LPC

Greg Lozano is a licensed professional counselor who specializes in mood disorders, trauma, PTSD, anxiety, depression, and relationships.

This article is not meant to be a replacement for medical advice. We recommend speaking with a therapist for personalized information about your mental health. If you don’t currently have a therapist, we can connect you with one who can offer support and address any questions or concerns. If you or your child is experiencing a medical emergency, is considering harming themselves or others, or is otherwise in imminent danger, you should dial 9-1-1 and/or go to the nearest emergency room.

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