Reducing Extended Family Stress This Holiday Season

The following guest post is from Audrey at Mom Drop Box:

holiday stress
source: thskyt

The holidays are almost upon us, and for many of us, that means time with our extended family.   If you’re a person who never has any issues with family, you’re probably the envy of all your friends!

For the rest of us, time with extended family can be stressful as we try to navigate difficult situations or people.  I have found that doing a little planning in advance of the holiday time with family can really help make the experience smoother.  Here’s how:

Keep the end game in sight. 

What goals do you & your spouse have for the holiday?  For example, if one of your goals is to have a calm holiday, perhaps going to both grandparents’ homes on Christmas Day is too much.  Measure your plans against your goals, and make sure they match up.

Decide what you will and what you won’t accept.

My husband and I have won’t allow yelling or repeated cursing around our kids- those are some of our ground rules for visits.  When you know a family member has patterns of behavior, you can anticipate what might occur.  It helps to sit down and discuss with your spouse what behaviors you think may happen, and how you feel about them being exhibited around your family, before you’re in the thick of dealing with it.

Make a plan of attack.

If things start heading downhill when you’re with extended family, what are you going to do?  Whose job is it going to be to talk to the aunt who’s had too much to drink or the grandfather who’s getting too angry & loud?  Typically, it’s easier to deal with family members if they’re yours biologically- there’s more history & so they’re often more willing to listen.

Shut that door.

There are topics that we just may not feel like discussing, or that are sources of conflict with a particular person.  If a relative goes down a path that you’re not comfortable with, you need to shut the door on that topic.  Getting in your head an appropriate response is easier in advance.  Try: “I’m not really up for talking about it right now.  Thanks,” or “This is what works best for our family,” or “Sorry to cut you off, but I really need to run to the restroom & go help cook!”

Laugh & let it go.

It’s not our job to be the behavior police.  When people behave poorly, it’s often best for our sanity just to laugh about it and try not to give it a second thought.

We can’t change our family.  We can decide what we will allow around our immediate families, and how we will react if there’s inappropriate behavior.   Here’s to low-stress holidays!

Do you dread family get-togethers at the holidays, or have you made your peace with more difficult family members?

Audrey loves thinking about how to make motherhood easier, relationships better, and money more effective, so she blogs about those things at Mom Drop Box.  She works part-time as an urban planner, but her most important job is being mom to her two young kids.