By Anja van den Berg
With the Festive Season upon us, many of us will be spending time with extended family. Whether you’re traveling to visit parents or they’re coming to stay with you, time spent with family can be filled with blessings – and also lots of stress.
Like it or not, extended family and in-laws are part of your life. And never is that fact more accentuated than over the Christmas holidays.
How can you keep your home harmonious when your mother-in-law has outstayed her welcome, over-excited children are acting up or your spouse is driving you crazy because he’s had too much to drink? Experts share their advice below:
- Let sleeping dogs lie
Many times, holiday drama is at its most potent because it carries the baggage of decades of personality conflicts, grudges, and hurt feelings. However, contrary to how many people feel, a family gathering is not the time to rehash old conflicts, says author and wellness coach Elizabeth Scott, “as such conversations often get messy before they get resolved – if they get resolved at all.”
What do you do at a family gathering when there’s someone there with whom you’ve had an unresolved conflict? “Just be polite,” Scott advises. Be well-mannered, redirect conversations that get into areas that may cause conflict, and try to avoid the person as much as you – politely! – can. You can even utilise the upcoming family gathering as a motivator to try and resolve the conflict, but do this prior to Christmas, at a time when the family isn’t congregated.
- Ask for ideas and prepare a schedule
Each family member will probably have a different idea of the ideal Festive Season. If you are hosting the Christmas holidays, send a friendly email to everybody who will be celebrating the season with you, and ask for their inputs. Maybe your In-laws would like to visit a memorial or museum while they are in town, or maybe they’d like to catch up with some old friends. This leaves you with some time to yourself, to relax by the pool and catch up on your reading. Compile a few questions, keep it light-hearted and try to accommodate their ideas as far as it is possible. It’s also important to include some down-time for everybody – don’t overschedule your days. Creating too much expectation often culminates in tension.
- There is no such thing as a ‘perfect holiday’
The over-the-top nature of holiday expectancies can make even the most reasonable person think too much in black-or-white terms. But things will not be perfect – nor should they be, says clinical psychologist Dr Andrea Bonior. “Your family will do some annoying things – they are human. The meal, travel or vacation vibe may be off from what you imagine, but it’s important that you don’t view the whole thing through a pass or fail dichotomy. Look for the little moments that can become memories to hold onto, or how the pitfalls can become funny stories to be shared later.”
It may be a cliché, but by now enough research has shown us just how true it is: the more you can bring yourself to focus on gratitude, the better you will feel, says Bonior. “It can affect not just your emotional health, but your physical health, too.
“Yes, your family drives you up the wall, but maybe they also make you laugh. Maybe a loved one is dealing with health woes, but for that moment you are grateful they are still around to meet your toddler. Maybe your family creates enough stress so what you have to be grateful for, is your ability to live your own life when your plane touches down on home soil. Whatever it may be, focus on it and you’ll be doing yourself, and the holiday itself, a big favour.
The Art of Simple: https://theartofsimple.net/8-tips-for-handling-extended-family-stress-during-the-holidays/
Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/friendship-20/201511/6-tips-avoiding-family-drama
Daily Mail: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2880779/Expert-advice-avoid-family-feuds-Christmas.html