Victoria is a stay-at-home mom, author, educator, and blogger at Healthy at Home. She currently lives in Colorado with her family.
Getting along with your family is one of those things that's difficult at any time of the year, under any situation. However, during the holidays, it seems to get extra dicey. With all of the added stress that the holidays bring, everyone is a little on edge, probably tired from all of the extra activity, and likely just as anxious as you are about how to get along with everyone.
If you think about it, this makes a lot of sense. Every family is made up of a number of individuals with different backgrounds, different experiences, different beliefs, and even different temperaments. Even on the best day, navigating the rocky road of relationships can be scary.
Then you pull them all together under one roof, and try to mesh schedules, diets, conversation topics, and holiday preferences, and that's where it becomes an Olympic sport to keep everyone happy. My husband's family is especially difficult because he is one of 13 siblings, and half of them are married with kids. Talk about a variety of different personalities!
The Holidays are Different
It's at this time of year when I think we need to be giving the most of ourselves. The holidays are a time for family. Even if you struggle to understand them, chances are, your family likely loves you very much. Especially when children are involved, grandparents tend to be very sensitive and want to spend time with their grand-kids.
Hopefully, it's just one day, or even a few that you are spending with them. They may not seem to be putting in much effort, and you may not want them around every single day, but this is a special time that is probably very meaningful to everyone in your family.
Let's look at some ways to make the process a little easier for everyone.
Oh no! This one is the hardest. Maybe they put you and your family of five in the smallest bedroom, in the smallest bed. I bet you they forgot that you don't serve your kids sugar, and they keep mispronouncing your youngest child's name.
The definition of patience is the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset. Try to take a deep breath, count to ten, or go to your happy place for a few minutes. You can handle this. In fact, by offering a little patience and trying patiently to problem-solve with them without getting angry, your family is likely going to work harder to make things work for you and make accommodations.
Remember that no one wants to be helpful when they are being met with anger, impatience or sarcasm.
This is a hard one for us. We have small children and no one in our family seems to understand their needs. My two year old had to fall down a flight of stairs before they would put up a baby gate for him, my children keep being left alone and unsupervised at tender ages, and they insist on activities back to back throughout the day and way after dark with little thought to naps and bedtimes.
Whatever your situation is with your family, it's important to realize that no one else lives in your household and understands your routine, diet, children's needs, etc. You may just need to sit down with them and discuss some things that are really important to you, or you may simply have to work a little harder to take care of your family and have some understanding that they just don't know.
You also never know where they are coming from or what their reality may be. A little understanding can go a long way during the holidays. Which leads to the next point...
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No matter what happens, try to handle every situation with kindness. So many people are hurting over the holidays. Maybe they're trying to get pregnant and are struggling, maybe they lost a good friend to sickness or strife, or maybe they don't have the money to pay their bills much less buy presents. Perceived unkindness or disrespect on the part of another may really be coming from a point of pain in their lives.
But even if they are being mean, being unkind back isn't going to solve the issue at hand or make the rest of your time together any easier. Try to temper your feelings with lots of kindness this holiday. Sometimes just saying, "I'm sorry you feel that way" is enough to make them see how awful they were and regret it.
A dose of kindness never hurts, and it will likely make you feel better in the process.
Kindness is always wonderful, but why not go a step further and be thoughtful. If you think that you are cramped in that small bed with 3 kids, what about your sister-in-law having to sleep on the floor? You mother-in-law may be feeling the pressure of making the entire holiday meal by herself, or maybe you notice one of the kids being left out.
Spread a little holiday cheer by thinking of others this year. Instead of thinking about how uncomfortable you are, or the fact that they don't have the right kind of milk in the fridge for you, you'll feel loads better by considering what others may need, and you may even just forget your own discomfort.
Spend some time looking around the room and trying to find needs you can fill, and places where you can make someone feel better. I bet you that they turn around and do the same for you. Thoughtfulness is contagious.
To go along with thoughtfulness, it may just be some appreciation that really seals the deal. Have you considered the thought actions of others? It's easy to dismiss when stress is high and there are so many things to worry about. Did you notice that Aunt May made your favorite dish, or that your father-in-law gave you extra pillows and blankets?
If being with your family truly is so stressful, make it your purpose to relieve some of it. Smile, talk some time to say thank you to those that go out of their way for you, compliment your mother-in-law's hard work on decorating the house, or your brother-in-law's job hanging the Christmas lights.
It truly is the little things that make all the difference. Be the one making people feel good this year, not the one causing more stress.
By generosity, I definitely don't mean that you have to buy everyone gifts. What I do mean, is not to make it all about what you get, but what you give. On too many occasions I have seen disappointment and even meltdowns (by children and adults alike) regarding what they received and how much they got.
Even if finances are tight and you make homemade fudge for everyone this Christmas, or some precious homemade ornaments, be more aware of your part in spreading Christmas cheer to others rather than the presents you receive. we have been known to simply buy one game for everyone to play together over the holidays when we couldn't afford anything else.
You'll want to read my upcoming article on Making This a Season for Giving, where I share tons of ideas for you or your kids for focusing on others this holiday season rather than yourselves.
When it truly comes down to it, there's no reason to be disrespectful to anyone. If you are staying at someone else's house and they are cooking for you, they are likely working hard to make sure that everything is just right and runs smoothly for everyone. They at least deserve your respect because you are in their home.
And even if everyone came to your home, and you're the one working hard, you can't expect everyone to have the same values, and beliefs you do. You making a stink will only make everything more awkward and hurt other's feelings. Be a gracious hostess and just make sure to give yourself some time every so often to cool down and blow off some steam.
Relationships can benefit the entire year from your responses and self-control over the holidays, or they can be destroyed.
Finally, make this family holiday visit about peace this year. You're most likely not the only one stressing out, but you can be the one that puts all of that behind you and focuses on making this the best holiday yet (or at least the most bearable one).
If you keep this word at the forefront of your mind while you're with family, maybe that will help you to think about ways to make every situation better rather than worse. What exactly does peace mean? Think about making people smile, diffusing difficult or fiery conversations with kind words, be appreciative of those around you and the effort (however big or small) they may be making, and patiently problem-solve.
You may still want to cry, or scream at the windshield, all the way home in frustration, but in the end, you can't change people. You don't have to make them a part of your everyday life if you don't want to, and you don't have to become Facebook buddies or penpals. But consider what those few hours or days mean to your other family members during the holidays, getting to see you, and your children if you have them.
I bet you can push through and make the time you spend with them as positive as possible. Just think, they will remember you grace over the holidays and think positively about you all year long.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2018 Victoria Van Ness
Victoria Van Ness (author) from Fountain, CO on December 17, 2018:
Thank you for the thoughtful comments! Merry Christmas!
Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on November 26, 2018:
We were so fortunate this year as we only had 2 from out of town, but 11 for Thanksgiving dinner. We had fun and all get along. There are some other family members that would have been less fun!
I think your suggestions are exellent for making the most out of the holidays, especially with your husband's large family.
Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on November 24, 2018:
Wonderful and thank you. I have four. Origin, honorary, previous wife and current. I think we do a good job of love. A really mean and cantankerous one hit hard times. Not so cock fired antagonist anymore.Times change, our love need not.