It’s the holidays, which means family near and far has gathered around the Christmas tree to come together in perfect peace and harmony. Everyone is happy and content, and there are absolutely no arguments or passive aggressive barbs being passed around the dinner table. Your family is what Norman Rockwell paintings dream of! Right? Yeah, me neither. Here in the real world, family holidays can become breeding grounds for decades old grudges and tiffs as everyone reverts to their childhood roles. And while you can’t control other peoples’ behavior, you can control how you react to them. Here are my 6 tips for surviving the holidays with family, so you can spend more time enjoying the season and less trying to defuse World War Three from breaking out around the menorah!
1. Have some perspective: Yes, being asked over and over again why you’re still single is exhausting, but it isn’t forever. Remember, as much as your family can drive you batty, this moment won’t last forever, and neither will they. This holiday party will eventually come to an end, and at the end of the night you will go home and back to daily life. Keep some perspective by reminding yourself that “this too shall pass”!
2. Acceptance: Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results. Stop trying to change or police behavior, and learn to accept your family for who they are. The holidays can be a stressful time because there are such high expectations for everyone to have perfect, Christmas cookie-cutter families, and inevitably no one can live up to that. Let’s be realistic here; if little bro spends every year ignoring everyone for the football game, and grandma always throws a fit over the food, why expect anything different this year? Of course, this does NOT mean accepting or tolerating bigotry or abuse of any kind, but it does mean learning to accept and overlook each individual’s unique quirks.
3. Have compassion: No matter how rich, or successful, or seemingly good someone might have it, everybody’s got something going on behind closed doors. Even if you think there couldn’t possibly be a reason for your relative’s bad behavior, imagine if there were. What if you learned that your mean aunt was actually mean because she had no immediate family left to celebrate the holidays with? Or you discovered that cranky grandpa was such a Grinch because of his excruciating chronic pain? Put yourself in their shoes, and give them the benefit of the doubt.
4. Don’t take it personally: Along the same vein, some relatives that rub us the wrong way don’t intend to, and are really just blind to their social blunders. And those that do sling arrows on purpose are most likely projecting their own issues onto you. For example, that cousin that’s constantly commenting on your weight gain/loss? She’s the one with the body image issues, not you!
5. Establish boundaries: Learn to say “No.” I can’t stress this enough! If the same dramas keep bubbling up year after year, why keep doing it? What would really happen if you skipped church with your mother, or if you decided that this year you would reserve a hotel room instead of sleeping at the in-laws? Would the world come crashing down and your family disown you? Probably not. It’s OK to establish healthy boundaries for your own sanity. Remember: the word “no” is a complete sentence which does not require explanation.
6. Laugh it off!: If nothing else, try to keep a sense of humor. Imagine you were on the outside looking in, and laugh about the absurdity of it all! Or, try making it into a game. Take bets on how many times grandpa will make comments about your hair, or make a bingo card with all of dad’s classic comments. Learn not to take every little thing to heart, and you’ll have a much better time.
Happy Holidays Dumplings!
Photo credit: Gratisography