If you have more than one family member, then I know you need some sanity saving tips to survive the holidays. Emotions are high with the relentless election coverage and end of year pressures. Add spending time in close quarters with your crazy relatives, and who is ready for a second cocktail?!
Woosah. We’ll both survive the holidays together.
I can’t change your Aunt Carol’s overindulgence in bottled holiday cheer. Nor can I alter Cousin Keith’s knack for gossip. Why your brother decided to have enough children to start a basketball team is also something we have no control over. However, I do hope to provide tactics to help mediate awkward situations and reign in the crazy so you can survive the holidays with your sanity intact.
Here’s a little insight into my family dynamics. Both my husband and I come from divorced parents. Our dads have both remarried. One could say the whole lot of us could easily appear on a reality TV show.
Basically, take the movie Four Christmases and add in our toddler!
My hubs is definitely as funny as Vince Vaughn, and don’t I wish I looked like Reece Witherspoon! Also hilariously similar, is that we have on more than one occasion vacationed on Thanksgiving — just like the movie characters.
One more nutty family detail: three out of four genetic parents live within 2 miles of our house. Some might say, “Hey, that’s so great to have grandparents so close!” While someone else would say, “How have you not moved out of the country yet?”
In a nutshell (pun intended) I have mastered familial expectation management. That’s totally a thing and I’m pretty sure it’s in a science book.
These are my best weapons, I mean tips, to surviving your relatives this joyous time of year
- Be Switzerland. Don’t take sides when and as much as possible. You can entertain civil, friendly debate but change the subject after each party has made a one point. Then you can delight Aunt Edith by letting her make her opening statement with an affable retort but avoid too much excitement. Have a few phrases in your back pocket that neither agree or disagree. Examples such as, “Things have just changed so much since then!” Or, “It’s a lot to wrap your head around sometimes!” And a personal go to, “You just can’t please everyone all at once!” Use these phrases followed by a quick change of topic to ensure the waters stay calm and you survive the holidays.
- Stick to safe, non-controversial dinner topics. I enjoy a lively, well-mannered debate. However, the larger the party, the more opinions. I would skip the usual suspects such as religion and politics. And for the love of Pete, save your election review for AFTER dessert when most of the table has cleared. As far as an approved list of topics? Here are some conversation starter questions for you!
- What do you think is going to happen in the revival of Gilmore Girls? Who doesn’t love a quick-witted show about a close mother and daughter relationship. Seriously, who?? Even if your suspecting family member doesn’t follow because they have been living under a rock for 15 years, proceed to fill them in on the highlights and themes. You could also ask them what their favorite show of the fall was. I bet it has something to do with zombies, solving crimes, or singing/dancing. Grandma Tilly is probably dying to talk with someone about the potential line of bimbos, I mean contestants, on The Bachelor Nick.
- Which European city do you think was number one tourist destination in 2016? Bloody good fun was found by many in London, England this year. Who can’t continue talking about all things British? Some example discussions might involve Downton Abbey withdrawals, The Royal Family darlings, and even the new acclaimed series The Crown on Netflix, which covers the early years of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II.
- Where is the next Olympic Games taking place? Pyeongchang, South Korea As an olympic year, I feel like it’s a totally milk-able subject. Come on, the Final Five!!! Women’s Gymnastics has always been a favorite to watch, and this year was no exception. Fun fact: The next three Olympic Games will be hosted in Asian cities. South Korea is followed by Tokyo for the next Summer, and Beijing for Winter 2022.
- Kids need a distraction. To keep the crazy and noise level in check, structure is needed. It’s best to include kid friendly activities for any under the age of 16. Or in this age, anyone without a smart phone. Play hide and seek with your little nieces and nephews or write letters to Santa with your young cousins. Include the little ones as much as possible in the grown up stuff! I remember a holiday spent making masa for tamales with my grandmother and it’s one of my fondest memories!
- Board games can be a real hoot. That is, unless you are my brother-in-law and losing to Monopoly ruined Christmas three years ago. (A story for another blog.) Might I suggest games like Clue and Scrabble as shorter, safer gambles for family fun. A puzzle takes the competitiveness out of it and makes a great turkey coma activity. I always come armed to family gatherings with a deck of cards, preferably Pinochle or Uno. I won’t say no to Gin or a round of Spit & Whistle either.
- Be helpful! Unless you have a Monica Gellar running the kitchen, offering help is appreciated. If you do, take a note from Chandler and Phoebe and “watch the game”! In my case, I really will be watching the games as I have two fantasy teams to track and I’m on the edge of missing the playoffs. If the cook seems to have things under control, offer to help somewhere else. Refill everyone’s drinks or clear the table after.
Keep these things in mind for next week and you’re sure to enjoy your holiday! Plus, a glass of wine can make Uncle Henry’s detailed medical history a little more interesting.
Any tips to survive the holidays from your own experiences with crazy family members? I’d love to hear them in comment below!