We love and hate our families. We want to be with some of them, but after a few hours can’t stand others. Going home for the holidays means confronting an intense mix of pleasures and fears that we never figure out until its time to leave. Here’s some advice for surviving your family this holiday season:
How to avoid killing your family over the holidays:
- Put a tack in your shoe: you’ll be distracted by a different kind of pain.
- Pretend you’re visiting an insane asylum on another planet. Your mission is to survive and report back.
- Invite your most abrasive friend/family member along to draw fire as a decoy (e.g. Home for the Holidays).
- Play hide and seek with your entire family where you are the seeker. Once they’re hiding, take a nap.
- Have a competition offering $10 to whoever can hold their breath the longest. This is a cheap way to buy silence.
- Two words: gin & tonic (Two more words: often & early).
- Make a list every family member’s deepest secret. Write each secret on a piece of paper with no names. Jumble in a hat. Give one to every family member and ask them to guess whose is whose. Stand back and watch.
- Put a tack in your most annoying family member’s shoe.
Those were for fun. Here’s some real advice.
Here’s some practical advice:
- Get exercise every day. Everyone abandons their routines, exercise and otherwise, when they travel, amplifying their stress and anxiety. A day of holiday travel puts everyone on edge before they even arrive. This makes you, and your family, like caged animals. Go for a walk every day or every evening. Even 20 minutes of light exercise will reduce your stress and restore your tolerance for annoyances. Get as many people up and outside for a game of touch football, tag, or just a walk around the block. Fresh air can do wonders.
- Read how to discuss politics with friends. Some basic ground rules make it easier to stay civilized in the face of ideas you don’t want to hear.
- Ask your partner for help. Who are your favorite family members? Enlist their help as an oasis of serenity (“Can you help me calm down when Dad’s driving me crazy?”). Offer to reciprocate with whoever it is that drives them crazy.
- Participate. Helping in the kitchen, raking leaves, or doing chores are all ways for you to choose participation with people you get along with best (Volunteer yourself and them for a specific task). It’s a mild form of #1 and gives you a useful distraction and preferred company while you do it.
- Read How to keep your mouth shut. Keep in mind your real goals and it will help you pick your battles, or get past the need to engage in any battle at all.
- Look at old photos. The past can be a safe place to go to spend time with family you don’t see often. Bring old photos of good times to reminisce in ways palatable to you. Bring a memory for each family member that’s positive and mention it to them.
- Play games. Board and card games are an age old tradition for sharing time with people you love but who also drive you crazy. Games have rules and the rules eliminate many frustrations of interacting with certain people. The better the game the more positive that experience is. If you bring a game you like, you get to take a lead role in teaching it to others (I highly recommend Apples to Apples, Carcasonne or Settlers of Catan).
- Last resort: movies. It’s an odd American tradition, but movies do create a passive and non confrontational shared experience. Everyone is a nicer person after watching Finding Nemo. Bring a movie on your iPad with the proper cables, and if all else fails fire it up.
If you have a comical or serious suggestion, leave it in the comments.