Holidays can be a stressful time for families. If your end-of-year family festivities have become synonymous with sibling feuds, awkward reunions, and uncomfortable mealtimes, there is still hope for some holiday cheer. To help keep this year’s season truly merry and bright, follow these five tips for a stress-free holiday family gathering:
1. Be a savvy traveler.
To help avoid stress during the upcoming weeks, take time now to prepare, and finalize, your lodging and transportation plans. If you and your family are traveling, know ahead of time where everyone needs to be, and when.
If family is coming to you, make sure the details are ironed out long before in-laws drag luggage through your front door. Avoid placing relatives who are on the outs in rooms near each other, and have a clear calendar detailing how long everyone is in town. Plan ahead, and do your best to help everyone feel welcome in your home.
2. Avoid contentious table talk.
While you cannot control how everyone else will act at your holiday parties, you and your immediate family can decide not to participate in, or facilitate, taboo table talk. Agree beforehand that you will steer clear of any controversial conversation that has the potential to kill holiday spirit, biting your tongue, and choosing not to bite when baited.
If necessary, talk with potentially problematic guests ahead of time to make clear your intentions, and agree together to save contentious discussions for when you are alone. Holiday weekends with 25 people under one roof are rarely the time to bring up your sister’s messy divorce, your spouse’s holiday bonus check, or the presidential candidates for next year’s election. Stick to lighter topics, and keep the focus on making new, positive memories together as a family.
3. Don’t dwell on the gifts.
Large family gatherings can mean big financial stress for many people, and the costs of traveling, eating out, and sightseeing can put a strain on small holiday budgets. To reduce financial stress, talk with family members about eliminating or downsizing traditions, such as annual gift exchanges.
If you plan to spend your holidays with family, agree to stick to your pre-determined budgets. Placing the focus on memories, rather than things, can minimize expectations and underlying competition between families.
4. Make time for yourself.
The holidays only come around once a year, and if families have spent extensive time and money in order to be together, it’s easy to feel obligated to spend every second of every day in each other’s company.
Do not feel guilty taking time out of your holiday for a “break” when you need one, and do not feel like you need to neglect your traditions to accommodate everyone at every moment. With prioritizing and planning, it is possible to strike a balance this holiday season.
5. Choose to be the bigger person.
Most families have their fair share of problems, and the holidays often get a bad rap for bringing out the worst in people during the most magical time of the year. Even after you have done all that you can do, there will likely still be contentious moments during your December get-togethers. Ultimately, the decision is yours to be the bigger person, and let the little things go this holiday season.
The holidays are a time for love, patience, and forgiveness. The relationships that unite you with your family are ultimately more important than the differences that separate you. This year, choose to focus on the positive things you love about each of your family members, rather than dwelling on the little things they may do to upset you.
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