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Happy Family Gathering 101

Holiday dinners are supposed to be a time for family, friends and laughter. The idea is to get together and just enjoy each other’s company. However, whether we like to admit it or not, spending time with family can also be a stressful experience filled with frustration and unexpected heated arguments. You know the ones I’m referring to, don’t you? The conversations you wish you could take back, or at least have thought about in advance to avoid saying something regrettable. If you would like to keep the peace this holiday season, below are some tips to help you get through those holiday dinners and perhaps even have a civilized experience with all the members of your family. Yes, even your in-laws.

  • Keep an open mind. Before the dinner begins, take a few minutes to think about the dinner you’re about to experience and how joyous it would be if everyone was able to get along.
  • Before you and your spouse meet up with the rest of the family, have a conversation with each other about what issues are on your mind, what your concerns are and where you stand on them. By discussing issues in advance you can create a united front and then be each other’s support throughout the gathering you’re about to be a part of.
  • Discuss with your spouse where you will be going, who you will be spending time with and for how long, and when you will be spending time with each other’s family. If possible, try to be fair in how much time each family gets with the two of you.
  • Remember that you and your spouse are on the same team and when you stand together you can get through anything.
  • Before the holidays get here, try and get to know your extended family a little more. Sometimes the reason we argue is because we don’t think of them as close members of our family. You may find that you have more in common than you realized, and if nothing else you will have talking points to use in place of stressful topics to fill the awkward silence moments.
  • Prepare responses to personal topics. By anticipating the subjects that could come up, you’ll be more emotionally prepared for how to respond. For example, when you are asked: “When are you two finally going to have a baby?” You could get emotional and react irrationally, or you could simply be firm in the response: “When Tom and I are ready, we will discuss it and I promise we’ll keep you in the loop.”
  • Even when it feels impossible, keep calm. You will only add to the intensity if you react instead of thinking first, then calmly responding. Breathe, and leave the room if you must- it’s better to collect yourself than cause a scene.
  • Create boundaries with blended families. Develop and discuss rules with each step-parent and children in a clear and understandable manner in advance of gatherings.

Remember, the holiday season can and should be a great time to bond with your family, if you choose for it to be.  Focus on the positive aspects of your family members and you’ll have a much happier holiday season.

Hammond, Stuart and Tirado are with Hammond Psychology & Associates, P.A., a private practice in Brandon, Florida dedicated to helping children, teens, families, and adults. For more family tips, visit our blog at: www.HammondPsychology.com

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