Surviving the In-Laws at Xmas

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Christmas is upon us again as we all prepare for that family get together.

Family members we can tolerate on that once a year visit and those who may become intolerable after too much Christmas cheer. Sometimes the in-laws become a struggle for us to connect with. By the time Christmas Day arrives we are usually all slightly stressed financially, emotionally and physically.

How then do we ensure a great day without any in-law or family fights, arguments or offending comments?

If we know those members who can be slightly difficult or those who are not currently getting on, there are a few ways to avoid any escalation of emotion. Most everyone is tired and worn out on Christmas Day. The day often starts early, long preparation is exhausting and then we usually overindulge on food and alcohol. All this can make a great or challenging day.

In-laws have their own personalities and their own family culture, perhaps somewhat different from the one you were raised in. None the less, your partner is part of their family congregation and a degree of tolerance is expected from you if for no other reason, to support your partner and the kids.

If you have 2 members who start to argue about something or begin to have a disagreement with you, I suggest change the subject completely. If for example a disagreement starts about politics or even an event that occurred during the year and voices start to rise, ask them a completely random question, as this is what we call ‘break state’. You confuse their mind process and redirect it toward something else. You may say – ‘tell me about that holiday you went on …’ or ‘ how is that job of your going, is your boss being more civil to staff?’. Any topic that is a question to completely change the subject and redirect their mind to search for an answer or response.

If one of them is passionate about a topic, ask them about this, they will automatically gravitate towards the subject they love and the issue about the other person usually disappears, as they are now more interested in this topic instead.

I have a few suggestions to reduce any conflictual conversations. When one person starts to pick or challenge the responses what I recommend is to respectfully say:

  • Thank you, for sharing
  • I’m so glad you shared your opinion about …
  • Sorry, you feel that way about …..
  • Interesting point, perhaps we could discuss this more in depth at a later time
  • I will consider that

Doing this stops any escalation of the conflict. The main thing to avoid is a reaction, we need to respond. A reaction is made with emotion and no logic; a response is made with consideration and logic.

Christmas is a time for reuniting with family you may only see once a year. It can be a fantastic time to catch up and enjoy them.  It is a time for joy, sharing, laughter and celebration. If we focus on this and not the problems it really helps. It is only one day of tolerance and a year to enjoy the (good) memories and gifts.