Christmas is often made out to be such warm, happy times with family, but the truth is it can be a really stressful, frustrating season. Loads of time with family can stir up lots of emotions and it can all come to a head when you’re all staying in the same house for an extended period. But you can make this time of year more enjoyable by trying some of these strategies to help keep the peace.
Give yourself some breathing room
Make plans to stay at a hotel rather than with your family and all of your extended family—as you’ve probably witnessed in years past, one bathroom and cramped quarters with everyone in each other’s faces for days can be a recipe for disaster. If you can afford it, try to stay elsewhere at least for part of your visit so you can have some breathing room. If this isn’t an option, plan an outing each day on your own—go skating or hit the local mall.
Bring a buffer
Have a friend who doesn’t have big holiday plans? Bring them home with you. This way they don’t have to spend it solo, and having an outsider to the family can be a fantastic buffer for you—you get to focus on spending time with them and playing host to them rather than getting embroiled in family drama. Plus, your relatives might be on their best behavior with them there (ie. they might not needle you as much about you living in the big bad city, for example).
Be smart about planning your visit
If you know you have a limited number of days that you can manage being at home with your family, be firm about how long you can stay and don’t give into the pressure from your parents to stay longer. It’s better that your visit be short and sweet rather than longer with tempers flaring.
Introduce new traditions
If you know that year after year, everyone eats the big holiday meal and then just continues to sit at the table and drink until inevitably someone drinks too much and things turn ugly, take the lead and introduce a new tradition to replace the usual agenda. Bring a board game, or get tickets to a movie opening that evening for everyone.
Practice keeping your cool
As much as you’d like to, you can’t change other people, you can only change how you react and behave in response to them. When you know how your overbearing aunt behaves, the best you can do is consider (and maybe even rehearse) how you’ll respond to her patronizing comments about your lifestyle or clothing. Think of yourself as Teflon and don’t let any of her passive aggressive stick to you. Reply with a smile and change the topic, and when you’ve hit your limit, escape by going to watch A Charlie Brown Christmas with the kids.