In-Law Stress During the Holidays

It was our first Christmas together. We decided to spend Christmas Eve with my husband’s family and Christmas day with my family. His family believed that the important celebration happened on the night before Christmas. They had their traditional big dinner and opened all the presents on that night. Well, that was just fine with me because that set us up to spend Christmas day (the real day to celebrate and open gifts) with my family. We had the perfect plan, right? Yes it was, except for the fact that we had to drive 7 hours to make it to my parent’s home by Christmas morning. We drove all night long. We were so determined to be at our own family celebrations that we actually put our lives in danger to make it work. We’ve learned a lot since then. I know the holidays can be stressful. Here’s a helpful resource I ran across. See what you think.

7 Tips for Managing In-Law Stress During the Holiday

By Terri Orbuch, PHD

1. Expect the minimum.

Don’t expect praise, warmth, and approval from your partner’s family. Transform into a gracious host and treat them as honored guests. They will either respond or not, but you won’t care.

2. Let them help.

Ask your father-in-law to build a fire. Ask your mother-in-law to make or bring her favorite dish. People like to be needed, and it gives them a way to contribute.

3. Be a reporter.

One of the best ways to keep conversations light is to ask questions and get your in-laws talking — about their work, childhood, hobbies, etc. People love talking about themselves.

4. Blend traditions.

Ahead of time, ask your partner to describe family rituals — such as special prayers, toasts, foods, or after-dinner games or activities — and surprise your in-laws with one of their favorite holiday rituals.

5. Deflect negativity.

If your in-law criticizes you, your partner, or a member of your family, simply smile and reply with a neutral comment, such as, “Think so?” Later, after the holidays are over and you have more control over the setting, you can share that it hurt your feelings.

6. Set a time limit.

Set limits on the time you spend cooped up with your in-laws by announcing at the outset that you will have to leave later to take the kids skating, to visit a food pantry, or to deliver cookies to an elderly neighbor.

7. Take a walk.

Everyone understands the need for a walk after a big meal. Get out of the house and take some deep breaths to recover.

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