10 Ways to Survive Your Family this Holiday Season

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Put those focus on those in need

Volunteer your time in the service of others. Even if in-person opportunities are limited this year, Volunteer Match has thousands of virtual ways to give back this year – have a letter-writing party for a nursing home, decorate bags for meal deliveries, record an audiobook for a learning ally, and so many more!

Eliminate the ticking bombs

If there are topics of conversation – politics, religion, the Spice Girls – that always incite a riot in your family, inform everyone ahead of time that those will be off-limits this year. Come up with a funny way to put the kibosh on any banned banter to keep the mood light – may we recommend this clown horn? (Or levy punishments against the rule breakers like, “The first person to mention politics has to do all of the dishes.”)

Give people jobs

As hosts, we are too often inclined to do it all ourselves, which is actually counter-productive! Involving others in the preparations is a great way to bond. When everyone feels like a part of the day, they’ll also feel responsible to make it a success. And WE don’t end up frazzled before the family has even arrived!

Put on some tunes

Music brings people together (unless you have really bad taste)! Put on a playlist everyone will like and don’t be afraid to jumpstart a sing-along or a dance-off.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder

If you are going to be together for an extended period of time, make plans that will split up the family each day and get people out of the house so everyone gets some time apart. If you have the ability, consider renting an Airbnb for your visitors.

Keep it movin'

Go on a family walk in a neighborhood you love or play Just Dance on Wii – just something to get people out of their own heads for 30 minutes. Everyone needs to burn off the excess energy they might have used to spar over football teams for the thousandth time.

Do your research

Spend 15 minutes thinking about your guest list and the things they have in common or would enjoy talking about. Keep the list on a notecard stashed nearby so that you can inject the conversation with positivity whenever needed. (We also highly recommend these Convers-ate cards for creating meaningful connections.)

Keep your cool

It’s easy to feel judged or criticized or just sensitive around the people who have known you your entire life. If you feel yourself starting to react to them negatively, don’t be afraid to put yourself on a time-out for your own mental health. Make sure there’s a part of your home (inside or out) where you can disappear and do some deep breaths. Light a candle, scream into a pillow, sip some wine in the tub – whatever you need, just have a plan, so that if the time comes when you need it, you can activate Operation Mellow.

Impose time limits

If family friction is all but inevitable, just limit the amount of time you’re all together! Who cares if you usually spend the whole day together – out with the old traditions, in with the new! You can plan some optional activities for them to do elsewhere before arriving at your home, and then just keep the festivities to a few hours.

Invite an ally

Make sure there’s someone on your guest list who will have your back – whether a best friend or a favorite cousin. Looking out at a sea of people and seeing that one smiling wink can make all the difference.

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