For some families, celebrating with the in-laws is nothing but fun – children enjoy visiting with their grandparents and large family gatherings have a festive feeling.
But for other people, holidays with the in-laws can feel more like a chore, whether it’s because they shower you with criticism or just have their own ways of doing things that conflict with your style.
Here are some some simple relaxation and communication techniques to help you survive holidays with the in-laws:
Set some time limits for the visit. Rather than spend two whole weeks of cherished vacation time with the in-laws, limit the visit to five days, or less if you see each other frequently during the year. If you must stay with the in-laws for a longer stretch of time, schedule some day trips or mini-vacations that get you out of the house and away from the triggers that add stress to the season.
Leave the Past in the Past
Bury old grudges. Leaving old arguments and problems behind gives you a clean slate for the holiday. You can make an effort to rise above the in-laws’ strategies to pull you into controversial discussions. When troubling topics enter the discussion or when the tone shifts to being confrontational or critical, change the subject or, if necessary, leave the room.
Show a Good Example
Model positive, constructive behavior for your family. Plan a holiday tradition just for your immediate family. Whisk away the kids for a forest hike or a secret last-minute shopping trip. Spend an afternoon at a friend’s house baking cookies or trying a new recipe.
Make Time for You
Schedule some time just for you. The holidays can be a whirlwind of commitments and to-do lists, and in-laws just add to the stress. If you have just 15 minutes and a quiet corner, do a quick round of yoga practice or meditation. Venture out to the local library or a cafe for an hour of reading. If you have more time, invest in a day at a spa for ultimate relaxation.
Look on the Bright Side
Look for the silver lining. If your in-laws ignore you, be thankful if they spend time with your children. If they meddle, thank them for caring and sharing their wisdom. Perhaps you can find some common ground, be it looking at childhood pictures of your spouse, watching old home movies or scheduling a couple hours to wrap gifts together.
Don’t try to fix everything that is wrong with family relationships during a holiday visit with the in-laws. Most people experience heightened stress during the holidays and cannot engage in meaningful self-improvement.