Some people can’t wait to get together with extended family for the holidays, while others wonder how they will make it through the visit without losing their sanity.
Yes, surviving and even enjoying the holidays with our relatives is possible when we take the necessary steps to prepare for the visit. To encourage peace on earth and keep the jolly in your holidays, observe the following etiquette recommendations.
1. Plan an escape route.
Anticipating in advance that the host’s home will no doubt become overrun with people, make sure you’re not stranded. If you are traveling by air or train, rent a car when you get to your destination. It will be worth the cost when you need to get out of the house, whether for last-minute shopping, a trip to the gym or to simply drive aimlessly in silence for an hour or two.
2. Put yourself on your list of priorities.
Just like an emergency situation on a flight, take care of your basic needs first so that you bring your best self to the festivities. Get enough sleep, exercise and eat nutritious foods. Enjoy sugar and alcohol in moderation. Carve out some quiet time to unwind, phone a friend or catch up with your favorite aunt. Do whatever it takes to thrive in spite of the holiday stress.
3. Offer to lend a hand.
Figure out the best way you can contribute to the gathering. If you are a good cook, offer to assist in the kitchen. If not, roll up your sleeves, clean the dishes and collect the soiled linen from the table after the meal. Take the kids ice skating one afternoon to give everyone else a break. Of course, the most thoughtful thing you can do is to ask what would be most helpful for your host.
4. Set your own agenda.
You have taken time off from work and it’s important to schedule your days wisely. Whether it’s going to see a special performance, having dinner with old friends or simply visiting your favorite spa, incorporate activities that de-stress and re-energize you.
5. Strike a balance.
While you are not obligated to spend every waking moment with your clan, make some exceptions for family harmony. You may not be a big football fan, but you can opt to hang out with your brothers and sisters and catch up while the rest of the family enjoys the game.
6. Invite a buffer.
Maybe your brother is at his most unpleasant when it’s just immediate family, or your aunt loves to go on political rants but tones it down when the neighbors are over. If you have relatives that seem to be on better behavior when an outsider is around, make sure to ask a few of these “special guest stars” to the main holiday dinner or the other occasions you particularly hope to enjoy unspoiled.
7. Reject the notion that things must be perfect.
Most of the stress of family gatherings seems to arise when our vision doesn’t align with reality. Don’t compare your “perfect holiday” with what you see on social media, lifestyle magazines and television. Accept and appreciate the visit and your diverse family members in all their imperfect glory.