We have all heard the saying, there’s no place like home for the holidays. This sugar plum dream sold to us in commercials, while attractive, doesn’t necessarily apply to everyone. Holiday gatherings are often a wonderful time for everyone, but too frequently remind many how dysfunctional their family actually is. Let’s face it, we have all had a holiday family moment or two we would like to forget. Here we offer some suggestions to help you handle your
holiday reality when it doesn’t match the fantasy version.
Don’t relive the past. Reach out beforehand to work out any feuding. Send an email or make a phone call. Taking a proactive step can go a long way to smoothing out any misunderstandings and minimize awkwardness. Pat yourself on the back if you and your feuding relative are able to move past a conflict. There will be some who are not willing to let go of the past. Let them live in it,
not you. Move on and put on a smile.
Perfection is Overrated
Everything has to be perfect, please throw this thought out the window. A pot roast can get accidently burned, a guest could spill a glass of red wine on your new winter-white sweater or a highly-opinionated relative can get emotions running high. There are some things that are outside your control. Freaking out will only make it worse. It’s less often the mistake, but how you react to a mistake that matters. Remember, things happened – to everyone. Try to find the humor it in. Have someone take a photo of you in your newly burgundy colored sweater. It could provide you a good laugh for years to come.
All in the Family
Even though everyone is part of the same family doesn’t mean we are all the same. We all differ in our outlooks, how we live are lives, and what we what to achieve. Have realistic expectations of yourself and others. Understand others can evolve, but it could take longer for some to come around or maybe they never will. Accepting differences in your family members will eliminate negative thinking on your part.
Stay Out of the Line of Fire
Go ahead and expect there will be a bad turn in conversation. When the mood goes south, wait a few minutes, so it’s not so obvious, but find a reason to step out of the room. Say I need to check on the kids, refill my drink, or need to find the bathroom. It not a time to face off with someone, it’s a time of the year to try to keep things are a lighter note.
Change the Course
If you find yourself in a trying situation, a good way to turn things on a happier upswing is to take everyone down memory lane. Prior to the gathering, assemble family photos on your laptop or iPad in a slideshow set to music. Gather everyone around and press play. Watch for the smiles to appear and wait to hear the laughter. Cherishing the good times often brighten moods and lift spirits. Browsing through old photo albums are another good way to set the tone in the right direction.
Set Up Childcare
It’s important for you to spend some time with family without taking care of the kids the entire time. Beforehand, enlist some help. Bring some prebaked cookies and ask older cousins to oversee the kids decorating them. Ask an aunt to assist in a craft project or see if an uncle can take the kids for a walk or play a game of catch in the front yard after lunch.
A Support System
Remember, every family has its ups and downs. If there is not an immediate family member who you can lean on, reach out to a friend to call on. When your stress levels spike, it’s crucial to remove yourself from the situation and express your frustrations constructively, like to your confidante.
If all else fails, find the exit. It is okay to cut your visit short, if the party takes an ugly turn. Be honest with yourself about the length of time you can comfortably spend with your family without feeling resentful or overwhelmed. Politely find a way to leave and then you are home free.
Most families don’t live in the picture perfect world we often see flashing across the television screen. These assumptions can fog our thoughts on how are family should be. Families can be challenging and a little bit crazy. Say it is what it is. Repeat this to yourself as many times as necessary. Accept the limitations in you and your family, and you will have a happier holiday season this year
and for years to come.
Sara Kendall is a freelance writer and mom of two daughters.