Keeping the Peace during the Holidays

Most of us have watched those old movies that portray Thanksgiving dinner as a wonderful gathering of loving family who share with each other &what they are thankful for this year. More than a few of us have rolled our eyes at this portrayal of the holidays. In more recent movies, the holidays are a dreaded day when families come together to proudly display their worst neuroses, criticize one other, and bicker over past slights. Have the holidays gotten worse? Or are we just a little more honest about how the expectations of the perfect holiday often degenerate into family squabbles?

If your family holidays tend to get out of hand, there are a few things you can do to ease your stress and keep the peace during the holidays.

  1. Ask for help. If you are preparing a feast for a large family, other family members can bring side dishes to ease the burden of cooking. Get your kids to pitch in by giving them clear assignments in advance rather than pouncing on them half an hour before grandma arrives.
  2. Be realistic about the meal. Don’t try to re-create the scene at Martha Stewart’s house. Use classic recipes with techniques you are familiar with. This isn’t the time to experiment with capons and smoked oysters.
  3. Watch the alcohol intake. This is especially important if past holidays have resulted in relatives with alcohol-loosened tongues ruining the spirit of the day. Don’t immediately pull out the booze – get people to pitch in and help, and delay the first drink if you can.
  4. Don’t invite troublemakers. This might seem cruel, but if you have a particular relative who gets drunk, criticizes how you and your siblings raise your own kids, then turns a perfectly nice dinner into a screaming match, maybe it’s time to find an alternative way to spend the day. People are less likely to make a scene in a restaurant, so consider eating out. If alcohol is the culprit, you can let them know in advance this will be an alcohol-free holiday.
  5. Watch your expectations. Many people expect the holidays to remind everyone of the important things in life and bring them together. Holidays incur so much stress that they are more likely to exacerbate tensions than create a magically harmonious home.

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