We are entering into the holiday season once again, with the first holiday on the horizon, Thanksgiving. This is my favorite holiday, because it reminds me that gratitude is the most important ingredient for a happy family reunion.
Each family member carries something that is unique and relevant to the whole. As a result, his or her expectations may influence his or her perceptions. Thus, with a little pinch of gratitude, a dash of empathy, and a lot of compassion, you will find that home is where the heart is.
Here are some tips that can help your holiday experience be a happy one.
1. Be tolerant and flexible in how you perceive your family members. Remember the perfect family does not exist…even on TV.
2. Have a plan. That plan should contain the ground rules for holiday fun. For example, if you are the hostess for Thanksgiving, you should communicate to all guests that your home is a “safe zone,” a place for fun and family but not for resurrecting painful issues, squabbles, or historical injuries. Meet your guests at the threshold of your doorway and remind them once they cross into your house all family problems must be left behind. Reassure them they can pick those problems back up, when they leave. As the song goes: “Grab you coat and grab your hat, leave your troubles on your doorstep.”
3. Delegate. As the hostess, it is essential to recognize that no one can do it all by themselves – nor should they. There’s an unspoken rule in psychology, that if you let others do things for you, they like you more, because they feel invested. So, feel free to ask for help in the kitchen and let a cousin, aunt, child, or grandchild bring his or her favorite dish. This also gives him or her a chance to receive both attention and compliments for his or her contribution.
4. Take a time-out. Whether you are visiting a relative’s home for the holidays or you are entertaining, remember to take time out. If you are arriving at someone’s home, take 30 minutes before engaging socially, by meditating, having a warm bath, drinking a hot cup of tea, or just closing your eyes for a few minutes. If you are tired, you feel more fragile. And, tired and fragile people often make mistakes, get cranky, and become magnets for trouble. If you are the hostess, the same rules apply. Take time down and alone, so that you can manage your stress and have the energy necessary for socializing.
5. Reduce alcohol intake. When confronted with family, resist the temptation to drink alcohol in order calm your nerves. On the contrary, too much alcohol will reduce your inhibitions and allow you to say and do something you may be sorry for.
6. Resist acting out for approval. Instead of making you feel better, or more successful, competitive-bragging only makes you feel diminished and demeaned.
7. Postpone business talks and intimate questions. Just because someone asks you something, doesn’t mean you have to tell them everything. Practice and rehearse ahead of time simple phrases, such as, “Let’s talk about it next week when we’re not with the family,” or “I’ll call you later and we can chat about it.” Remember it’s not what you say, but how you say it.
8. Be tolerant. Give your relatives the benefit of the doubt. Remember when families come together, they often have unrealistic goals for one another and may try to recreate childhood fantasies. This can cause regressive and childish behavior. So step back, breath-in and give him or her the benefit of the doubt.
9. Don’t ambush family members with your problems. Holiday get-togethers should be the one time you can get together and suspend all problems and judgments.
10. Make it easy on yourself. Less time in the kitchen affords you more time to feel the love that only family get-togethers can bring. Without any extra financial expenditure, you can buy foods that are pre-made or found on a shelf. For example, canned sweet potatoes instead of fresh ones…everyone knows it’s all about the marshmallows anyway.