By Joy Davis
If the idea of getting all your family and relatives together under one roof for the holidays conjures up frightening images of the Hatfields and the McCoys, you’re not alone. Whether it’s a relative or sibling who gets on your nerves, stress from all the cooking preparations or mounting irritation from all the kids running wild in the house, large family gatherings can create a tense situation ripe for an argument. To avert a family fiasco this season, try these simple, holiday-saving tactics.
Stay at a Hotel
That’s right. If you’re traveling to see family, consider staying at a hotel instead of at your relatives’ house. No doubt, the latter is definitely cheaper, but you’ll pay dearly in other ways if you lock horns with your siblings and have to stay under their roof while you’re there. Stay at a hotel, and you can show up for the main event and leave when it’s over. Whatever you do, don’t blindside them with the “hotel” news. Let them know well in advance so there are no hurt feelings.
Hosting? Don’t Overdo It
It’s understandable that you want to tidy the house and maybe rearrange the furniture a little if you’re hosting the holiday dinner. But doing things like buying new furniture and changing the carpet to impress your holiday guests is going a bit too far. You’ll likely be exhausted with all the other things you have to do to get ready. And on that note, don’t try to cook the whole feast yourself, even if you are Martha Stewart. Save yourself some time and include ready-made dishes with the homemade ones so that you don’t end up burned out.
Devise a Clever Seating Arrangement
Think about who will be sitting next to whom for your holiday dinner. Don’t seat feuding relatives next to each other — they’re bound to spark flames. To make sure your seating plan’s disaster-proof, use place cards so there’s no question about who sits where.
Instead of everyone converging at one unlucky family member’s house for dinner, opt to have your holiday feast at a restaurant. You’ll have to plan in advance and secure adequate seating and dinner reservations. Most restaurants will happily allow individual billing per family — just be sure to check with the restaurant in advance. Your family will be less likely act out in public. Plus, there will be less work and more fun for everyone.
Don’t Discipline Your Relatives’ Kids
It’s just a rule of thumb: No matter how bad your cousins’ kids are, do not discipline them, or you’ll have hell to pay. Nobody likes having someone else give their child lip service — it’s one of the fastest ways to get into an argument. Be patient and know that small kids are bound to get a little hyper or cranky in a different environment away from their normal routine. If the kids are going nuts, round them all up and let them blow off some steam by playing outside in the backyard.
Coach Your Better Half
Even though he’s seen them a hundred times before, don’t expect your significant other to remember your family’s trigger points. School him on the basics so he won’t step into a land mine while innocently trying to make conversation. If your brother has a habit of turning every sports conversation into a heated argument, warn your better half so he steers clear of that topic. Or if your sister recently gained a lot of weight, definitely let him know so he doesn’t make the foot-in-the-mouth mistake of asking when she’s expecting.
Laughter is the Best Medicine
Planning a holiday gathering takes a lot of work, but all work and no play can lead to a family blowout. You’d be surprised how a simple game of cards can bring the family together and create tons laughter and fun. You can also rent some family-friendly movies to keep everyone engaged. If you have conservative relatives, preview the movie before you show it to avoid any embarrassment. Meet The Fockers with Ben Stiller is hysterically funny and will keep your family laughing instead of arguing.
Try these simple tips to help you enjoy the holidays and your family.
Joy Davis is a freelance writer who specializes in holistic wellness, fitness and travel. Several of her articles have also appeared in City Smart Magazine.
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