Yesterday was Thanksgiving here in the U.S. I hope you had a chance to count your blessings. And I hope your day was filled with family, fun, and food. The holiday season has descended upon us again; too soon in my humble opinion. Nevertheless, here we are celebrating or having celebrated a great American holiday, and now the clock is ticking. Only 28 days ‘til Christmas Day. The holiday means a lot of family get-togethers, parties, rubbing shoulders with family you may not see often.
Close, positive family and friend relationships are essential for a healthy, balanced life. Food and exercise don’t make the total woman or man. We do have our emotional and social sides. Sometimes relationships can be complicated. People do have their habits and eccentricities. Successful relationships take work. That said, what happens when tiffs occur? Or what about Uncle Fred who grunts each time he takes a bite of food? What about cousin Larry who cracks his gum during conversations and it sounds like a cap gun is on repeat and going off? What if little Charlie drops your dessert plate that was part of a set you were given when you got married? How about little Nell who whines constantly and jumps on your furniture? And don’t forget the brother or sister-in-law who feel they are superior to the rest of you because they have some money for expensive cars and clothing, and don’t mind working that into the dinner conversation?
Well, I suppose on one hand you can pray you don’t punch someone’s lights out during the event. You could work on the notion that in a few short hours you won’t have to see them for another year. That might help. Let’s look at some ways to handle situations like these in a more successful way.
Remember, nobody is perfect, nobody. You may have committed a faux pas at some point and needed forgiveness. Think about how the other person must be feeling.
And when you dwell on the actions of someone else that hurt your feelings, you are giving emotional control to that person. Holding on to a grudge won’t fix things or help you. Even if your snooty sister-in-law asks if you got your sweater at the local thrift store, and does so in front of everyone else, resist the urge to break her nose. Smile at her and tell her it doesn’t matter where it came from and tell her that you love it. Don’t let her meanness be rewarded by you crying, ranting, etc. Think about positive steps you can take to get past your hurt. When you do, you take back your power instead of handing it over to someone else.
Another thing, accept the fact that Uncle Joe chews and talks with his mouth open. Your slacker cousin is still jobless and has greasy hair. Brace yourself for the fact that the likelihood of them changing now may be small. Even so, try to look at things with a charitable heart. Find common ground, more than just the fact that you are blood relations, or agree to disagree, or simply say, “I’m sorry,” and patch things up.
Find something good about your nagging mother-in-law even if you wish she weren’t your mother-in-law. Did she make a delicious pie? Make sure you make a fuss about it in front of everyone else. Even cranky folks need to have a sincere compliment given to them at some time. Did your sister lose some weight? Compliment her. Small gestures like these can keep potential conflicts from becoming actual ones.
Hand out assignments so that everyone feels needed. Maybe your slacker cousin could set the table. Gum cracking Larry may be assigned to carve the turkey.
Prepare ahead for distractions. Provide options for the children. Get Nell to enjoy the swing or a coloring book instead of using your couch as a trampoline. Maybe have a quiet zone set up so that younger children or elderly relatives can have a place to rest as they may tire easily. Put on the TV for a parade while dinner is being set up. You can probably come up with some great ideas yourself.
The goal is to enjoy the holidays, not dread them. Be upbeat and accepting and you may just be surprised how well things can go.
Wishing you a Very Happy Holiday Season!