Livin' La Vida Lucia

How to Handle Holiday Family Havoc

Make Your Day More Merry

By Lucia Rossi

Just when you thought you had enough on Thanksgiving, here comes Christmas. It’s time to put the “fun” in “dysfunctional” this Christmas with yet another family reunion.

Some may wonder why such a holly jolly day is one of the most depressing days of the year. Sure the most obvious targets are those who spend the holiday alone, but we fail to remember all those in despair who are forced into less than comfortable family gatherings.


With a lot of patience, a strong positive attitude, a little determination, and maybe a helping hand, we can all get through it. After all, no family is perfect.

Firstly, you need to prepare and anticipate possible disaster, think of the issues your family has had in the previous years. No one knows your family better than you and going through the same song and dance each year has hopefully made you wiser. If you know mom will be stressed about cooking and cleaning, do what you can to help the day before and during the dinner. If you’re going to a relative’s home, bring something as a polite gesture, like dessert. Bring an entrée if you’re especially picky or if you know the cooking won’t be great.

Try to start things off on the best note possible. If the dinner is in your home, try to set the mood with candles, a Christmas movie on tv, some classic holiday background music, and some candy bowls and wine bottles ready on display. Alcohol and sweets should raise everyone’s dopamine levels so they’re in a better mood.

You, should however drink with caution. Drinking alcohol may calm your nerves but it may also cause you to be stupidly brave and do or say something you will regret. Also, if you have depression or anger issues, definitely keep your distance because alcohol is a depressant. If your family members are drunk, try to keep their behavior under control and try not to waste your whole night taking care of them. This is your party too and you shouldn’t be the only responsible one.


If you’re visiting someone’s home, plan the length of time you want to stay in advance and tell your hosts. If you think the moment calls for fight or flight then fly out of there blaming it on work or your travel arrangements. Live to fight another day, be the bigger person and walk away.

Let’s talk about table manners and crisis control. Manners do make a difference. Trying to smile, saying please and thank you, offering assistance, and giving compliments if possible go a long way because it will express gratitude and add a more friendly tone amongst any tension.



Have your best friend or significant other accompany you so they’re on your team and is there for moral support. Think and talk about possible conversation topics incase things get ugly or nasty. Warn the person with you of any topics or situations that could be brought up and cause for chaos. See if your teammate can butter up any guests you know will be difficult to help keep the peace. This is all about changing scenarios so that the ball is in your court and you can try to control what’s going on. If this is an in-law dinner, then be sure to act like part of the family because uninvolvement may be dislikable behavior.


If things get heated, it’s okay to take an adult time-out to cool down. Take a walk outside, make a phone call, see what the kids are doing, help clean, watch tv, or go to the bathroom. I know it can be hard to bite your tongue but remember that it’s not the time or place and you’re doing it for everyone else’s sake as well as your own. If someone tries to start something with you, you can tell them the same. Try being an observer if you feel like you would easily get involved. Think of it like a movie where you take yourself out of the situation and you are merely watching. This option however, doesn’t make you very social.


If it is gift giving time, lower your expectations to practically nothing so you’re not disappointed and can be pleasantly surprised by literally anything you get. No matter how much you think a gift is unlike you or is totally ridiculous, act gracious and appreciative. Then, deal with the gift later. Try to enjoy any effort they put into it.

Although it’s Christmas, don’t expect a miracle. Try to make peace with your family and keep it at least for a day, at most a few hours. If there’s someone you can’t stand, be cordial. Hold on to your holiday spirit and don’t let anyone take it away. Even if you and your relatives may not have the best relationships with each other, deep down you love them and they love you. Try to keep that in mind.

Above all things, be grateful. Even if they shame you, do what you have to do to be strong. Write down your feelings, scream in a pillow, go on the computer, pray, read, eat, take a walk, and just focus on you.


If things don’t go well, don’t blame yourself. You just do what you can to handle damage control. In the end, it’s just another day and you survived it.


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