Most of us have relatives that cause us stress at family gatherings every year. Children coming back from college, children’s spouses, elderly parents less tolerant of the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, Aunt Edna who always seems to have something caustic to say, and Uncle Ed (maybe because of Aunt Edna) always seems to have too much of the holiday “spirit”, can all wreak havoc on our own enjoyment of the holiday season. For the most part we can’t choose our relatives but you can enjoy this time of year and keep your sanity if you follow some simple guidelines:
- If you have children coming home from college, remember to negotiate expectations in advance such as: plans over the holidays, bringing home boy/girlfriends, visiting friends, household rules such as curfew, also try to discuss grades beforehand so there are no ugly holiday surprises.
Celebrate in a location that makes life as easy as possible for the majority of members. If someone finds it difficult to travel because of pregnancy, infirmity or illness try to bring the gathering there. Just because the gathering is one member’s home doesn’t mean they have to do the majority (or any) of the cooking.
- While on the subject of cooking, if you have special dietary needs or wants, don’t expect the hosts to provide for your situation. If you are diabetic or vegetarian, bring your favorite dish with a little extra so others may try it as well.
If you are the host, invite a stranger to the gathering. By inviting a friend to the occasion who has nowhere else to go, prevents them from spending the holiday alone and can add a complementary personality flavor to the kitchen flavors, while sometimes bringing family members together as they make the guest feel welcome.
- Learn to ask for, and accept, help! If you are kept prisoner in the kitchen, then not only are you run ragged and can’t spend time with family; they do not get to spend time with you either. Everyone from children, to adults not cooking, can do chores like set and clear the table or do dishes.
- Last, try to think of “the other” first when making decisions or before getting angry when your expectations aren’t met. Whether “the other” is your parent, your child, your spouse, sibling or an ex-spouse, try to put their needs first without resentment, but with patience and a sense of love. You may find the feelings reciprocated, but even if you don’t, you will have found the true meaning of the holiday season.
My family and I wish you all the best of holidays, full of love and family. Happy holidays!