Nothing can ruin the holidays like an over-heated blow-up with your nearest and dearest. This year, save yourself (and your poor heartsick mother) the stress and get along.
Here are six expert tips for making merry with in-laws, friends and family this holiday.
1. Give the gift of a good time
It’s an unfortunate truth that we probably spend more time thinking about what to buy our friends and family then we do thinking about how we can be good guests or hosts to the very same. Reverse the trend.
“Among the gifts you give, let ‘a pleasant time’ be one of them,” says marriage therapist, Dr. Guy Grenier. “Our best holidays are not about pretty packages or fancy food; they are about moments spent with those we love,” he adds.
2. “Don’t be a hero, or a tyrant”
When it comes to holiday plans, “be collaborative and flexible. Don’t be a hero or a tyrant,” says registered marital and relationships therapist, Dr. Marion Goertz.
You may want to host the big family holiday dinner at your home this year, but if that means your sister-in-law, who’s also had her eye on hosting the festivities feels slighted then compromise: throw a joint party or concede a gracious surrender.
Whatever you do, make sure you’re not steamrolling over the hopes and desires of your family but rather consult them and make a family decision.
“Decide with your loved ones what you want to do together to celebrate the season in a meaningful way. Incorporate the ideas of people of all ages as much as possible and get them engaged in ways that are age-appropriate…delegate and you’ll all enjoy yourselves more and be tempted to argue less,” says Goertz.
3. Tis not the season to be petty or argumentative
Your sister owes you $1,000, your brother-in-law dinged your car last month and still hasn’t said a word about repairs — let it go for now because the holidays aren’t the time to talk about anything potentially explosive, says Margie Warrell, CEO of Global Courage, a women’s leadership company.
“If there’s an ongoing issue in your family, the worst time to discuss it is over Christmas dinner,” says Warrell.
And if a member of your family makes the ill-advised move to come after you about an old grievance then you’re going to have to show you’re the better person.
“If someone tries to provoke you on something, don’t bite. If they are going to act small, you be big. If you want to address the issue then say you’d be more than happy to set up a time to do so after the festivities are over,” she says.
4. Your mantra: Sticks and stones
So your aunt made a crack about your weight again — you knew she would. But this time around, don’t let what she says bother or provoke you into confronting her (it’s an old truism that a grade-A jerk of either sex doesn’t respond well to confrontation). Instead, remind yourself that it’s not you, it’s her, that has the problem, says Warrell.
“Remember, when people say things that offend you, it’s generally about them, not about you. Think about why they have a need to be so mean,” she adds.
5. Imbibe judiciously
There’s a Merry Christmas party and then there’s just a drunken holiday disaster — the difference between the two often comes down to how much alcohol is being served and therefore consumed. Try and keep your guests on the sparkly, conservative end of the imbibing spectrum to avoid any potential outbursts.
“Yuletide is best experienced with a focus on holiday rather than decanted spirit,” says Grenier.
6. Less is more
You want to do everything this year: bake, decorate the house, host an elaborate feast for 20, and buy your friends and family the most perfect gifts.
Aim your sights lower, says Goertz. If not, you’ll simply create the perfect recipe for a bounty of “relationship stressors.”
Goertz likens the more modest approach to packing wisely for a vacation. “Set out what you want to take and then divide it in half. In other words, decide what are really the best parts of holiday celebrations for you this season and then plan to do only half of that.”
Goertz advises people to consider the most “meaningful parts” of the holiday and to implement those only.
“Decide to do less this holiday and enjoy it more.”
-Originally published December 12, 2012