Many families of all ages feel intense stress as they approach the holiday season. They know someone’s feelings will inevitably be hurt. They are stretched to spend time with both sides of their family or end up feeling guilty they can’t be everywhere. Then there’s the stress of spending time with someone you don’t necessarily get along with.
Some families use every combination possible to make their extended family happy. Christmas morning at home, Lunch at noon at her mom’s house, late evening at his dad’s house. Then throw in divorced and blended family dynamics and the day became even fuller. It can often mean spending only a few minutes at any one place.
The holiday season is the perfect time to reconsider how you want to be with extended family, particularly your in-laws. The holiday season is a time for creating your own traditions while setting boundaries with your in-laws. It’s a time to determine what you want and how you want to spend your holiday.
Don’t forget to check out our Coping With Family Holiday Stress article.
Give these 7 tips a try and see how your family gathering becomes memorable instead of wretched:
It’s important to communicate your wishes in a way that doesn’t make them feel like you don’t care. Communicate in advance what you want. Ask them what their preferences are as well. Then work on creating a plan that works for all of you.
Find neutral ground
If the stress comes from going to one family’s house instead of the other’s home, invite everyone to a beach house, rented cabin or someplace you can all enjoy that no one owns the space.
Get them involved
Invite them to join in what’s happening throughout the day. Include your mother-in-law in the meal prep or your daughter-in-law in the gift wrapping. Have your father-in-law read the Christmas story or another family favorite story. Try to make them feel comfortable and welcome. If you’re going to their house, ask if you can help them in some way. Give your mother-in-law compliments, talk to your father-in-law about topics that mean something to him.
It’s not personal
Often the tension we feel from out in-laws at this time of year comes from their being stressed as well. This type of stress can make that seemingly harmless bad behavior to become even more exaggerated. It’s more about their insecurities than it is about you, so try to leave the defensive mode at home.
Look on the humorous side
It’s much easier to laugh at what your in-law says or does than to spend the holidays tense and on edge. Search hard to find the humor in situations that might otherwise make you feel criticized or left out. Humor helps you stay calm at them time and keeps some of the tension from exploding into a full-blown breakdown.
Plan an exit strategy
When you visit your in-law’s house, have an agreed amount of time you will stay. If it’s a matter of one of you wanting to stay longer, you may have to arrive in two cars. Let the family know one of you need to leave at a certain time for whatever reason.
Have some downtime
Find a quiet time for yourself during the hectic holiday season. You need to re-energize. Or if you are staying at your in-laws, you may need to find a little quiet time to catch your breath or get away from them.
End Goals On Relieving Holiday Stress
The goal is to make progress on having a less stressed holiday with your in-laws. There won’t be perfection. It’s a matter of building a relationship with family that will grow with time. With a little effort on your part, and hopefully, theirs too, you could end up having one of the calmest holidays you’ve ever had.