by Shannon Serpette for Dadspadblog.com – Whether you love your extended family with all your heart or you can barely stay in the same room for five minutes without an argument erupting, getting a family under one roof for a holiday celebration can be an enormous challenge. But, with your children watching your every move, you need to be a good example, no matter how hard it is.
If you normally feel like kicking out the bathroom window after the first 30 minutes to escape from the drama, noise, and disagreements, it might help you to have a few tricks up your sleeve at your next family gathering. These tips might help everyone leave the gathering at the end of the night with a warm, fuzzy feeling instead of boiling over with rage.
Stay Away from Old Arguments
If you know rehashing who won the big neighborhood basketball match of 1982 is going to create some hard feelings between you and your brother, you shouldn’t even bring it up, even if you’re kidding. And if he brings it up, you should shrug your shoulders, smile (not smirk) and head to another conversation as soon as possible.
With siblings, even events that happened decades ago can still feel fresh. Don’t get sucked into that black hole of bitterness. Walk away – it’ll be better for you and everyone else at that party. You can even use that conversation as a lesson for your children. It shows them that even adult siblings have problems getting along, but at the end of the day, you still love each other.
Stick to a Two-Drink Maximum
Even though alcohol may seem to take the sting out of your cousin’s non-stop bragging about how her kids are smarter than yours, it really won’t help. In fact, it could make things much worse, depending upon how much alcohol you’re tossing back.
If you overindulge, your filter will be gone, or at least severely impaired. And filters at a family party are a necessity. You’re in a room full of people who know most of your dirty secrets and insecurities – and they don’t mind using them against you. Don’t give them any reason to bring up your past bad behaviors in front of your kids.
Act Like Nothing Bothers You
This classic nugget for dealing with bullies is hard to pull off, but it’s still good advice. While your family may not actually be bullies, it sure can feel that way sometimes. They can smell your fear and may pounce at the first sign of you feeling uncomfortable – it happens whether you’re in a close-knit family or a fractured one.
If you are smiling, friendly and don’t act defensive the second someone says something slightly inflammatory, you’ll feel like the bigger person, even if you secretly still want to tackle the person who is annoying you.
Ditch the Political Talk
Getting sucked into a political debate is one way to end any holiday party with escalating arguments and violence. If you’d rather pour bleach in your ears than listen to one more Trump supporter talk about fake news, you need an exit strategy before you walk through the door of that party.
Make yourself a solemn vow that you’ll head in the opposite direction of any political talk, otherwise the night might end with someone shouting, “You can’t handle the truth!” like Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men.
You won’t ever be able to change a person’s mind about their chosen political leader, so you shouldn’t even try. The effort isn’t worth it. Your children will learn from your example about how to keep the peace, which is an important life skill they’ll need in this world.
Don’t Be Sucked in by the Black Sheep
Every family has one – the person who just doesn’t seem to fit in with the others. Whether they’ve been in and out of jail, are facing some serious problems or they just don’t share the same personality traits as the rest of you, try to make sure they aren’t excluded from conversations and fun. That’s simple courtesy.
But don’t be the human sacrifice either. Talk for a while and then get out before your eyes begin to glaze over as they kick off their umpteenth bizarre story. There’s no reason in the world you should have to take all the heat. The others should have to do their share too.
If you’re cornered, tell the black sheep you have to go check on your kids and make your exit.
Bring a Wingman
When you don’t want your family to unleash their full-on crazy mode, there is only one thing that will neutralize them – fresh blood.
If you bring a stranger into the fold, everyone’s behavior will astound you. Although the cracks might start showing by the end of the night when everyone is tired of being on their best behavior, you’ll have a much more enjoyable night if you can sucker someone into going with you. So if you have a buddy who doesn’t have family or your child wants a friend to tag along, seize that opportunity.
Plus, on the bright side, if you bring another adult with you, you might have a designated driver if you can’t bring yourself to stick to the two-drink maximum rule.
Shannon Serpette is a mother of two and an award-winning journalist and freelancer who lives in Illinois. When she’s not spending time with her children, she is often pursuing her favorite hobbies – running, metal detecting and kayaking. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.