It’s that time of year once again. Family members near and far are reuniting all over the country for their annual holiday celebrations. Whether you are the one traveling this year, or are opening your home to holiday guests, making this a joyous event is merely a matter of preparation and perspective.
For many, reuniting with famly is a joyous occassion. Yet for some, this yearly gathering will bring about conflict and drama. Joining once again with family that has been separated by great distance (emotional as well as physical) can stir up turmoil. Old wounds may be re-opened, frivolous differences become heated debates, and there is often that one relative who decides it’s the perfect time to voice his/her disapproval with someone’s job, home, spouse, or a family event that took place twenty years ago. For whatever reasons, being around family members can revert even the most mature, poised, self-aware individual back to an immature, unreasonable, argumentative 10-year-old. Watching this process unfold in someone else’s family may be amusing, but witnessing the drama in your own family can be distressing.
If you anticipate a charged atmosphere at your gathering, it may be best to avoid offering any alcohol. While wine and other spirits are commony poured during holiday celebratons to set a festive mood, alcohol may instead result in the flowing of too much emotion. Although you can’t always control the family discussions, you can control your attitude and the way in which you respond. Humor is a great survival tool. If you can’t find your humor, find your grace. A simple, “I am sorry you feel that way” will suffice. Sometimes it is just better to walk away from the discussion entirely. Don’t let an unhappy or argumentative relative ruin your holiday spirit. Remember what you are thankful for, and be thankful that you don’t have to encounter such conflict on a regular basis.
A wonderful way to keep conflict to a minimun is to stay busy with your guests. Take a fresh look at your own town and consider what it may offer your visitors that is different from the area in which they live. What festivities could you attend together that are unique to your area? What are the local “tourist attractions”? Check with your town or city’s website to see what special events they may be holding. If you are the one traveling, it is important to remain open to your hosts’ plans, realizing they may have planned particular events specifically for your visit. Or, research their town ahead of time and offer suggestions as to what you might enjoy. Being a welcome holiday houseguest requires little more than an easygoing attitude and a willingness to pick up after yourself. Additionally you can offer to help with meal preparations, cleanup, or watching the children.
If the prospect of extended overnight guests in your home makes you anxious, perhaps you could suggest that they book a couple of days at one of your favorite local resorts to break up the visit. Some resorts and hotels may offer special deals, events, or programs for the holiday season.
Finally, whether you will be a holiday host or a holiday guest, remember that there will be other opportunities to discuss the sensitive issues in your family. This year, find something complimentary or supportive to say to every family member–especially to those with whom you experience the most tension. After all, it is the season to celebrate peace, love and goodwill to man.