How To Navigate Family Minefields At The Holidays Like A Pro

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Are you wondering how to navigate the mine field that is a family holiday?  You are not alone.  Lots of us experience, and consequently deal with the stress of the holidays in different ways – and we all know they are stressful.  I’m hosting Thanksgiving this year – and actually really looking forward to it!  One brother and both sisters are coming, along with assorted nieces and nephews – and a potential addition to the family with one nephew.  If a day acclimating to our quirky family isn’t enough to scare this girl off, then she’s a keeper.

Over the last several years, I have come to really look forward to the holidays.  I have started to enjoy them more and more as my own kids have gotten older and started to be more into the holidays as a whole.  They make everything better – me, the world, the holidays – everything.  I refuse to let anyone impose on that, so I have started setting some boundaries.  You have to in order to keep your sanity.


Set Boundaries

First and foremost, set boundaries.  Are there topics that you don’t want discussed because they are sure to be charged and bring enough drama to the table to outshine your perfectly cooked bird?  Nip them in the bud before any guests arrive.  You can do it by e mail, by phone, or over coffee, but set them.  Is the family wondering why “special” uncle Charlie isn’t coming?  Don’t discuss it.  Are there recent divorces, pregnancies, or bank robberies in your family’s last few months?  Avoid it like the plague.  Tell your guests that we are not discussing the following things…then be clear.  If they can’t abide by that request, let them know they are welcome when they can comply.


Have Separate Holiday Celebrations

Is there a family member you absolutely adore but know they aren’t gong to comply with your request?  Have a separate outing with them.  Go for coffee, take them a plate of left overs, or have dinner the following weekend.  Do anything you can to spend time with them without caving.  You’ll thank me for it at dinner time!


Plan Ahead and Share the Load

Be sure to plan ahead for Thanksgiving dinner.  If you are hosting, there is a certain level of stress and responsibility that goes along with that.  Be sure you let others know what you need help with.  Does Aunt Sally make a magnificent pecan pie?  Ask her to bring one.  What about your brother who cooks a great ham or fish?  Ask.  Need paper products and know that cousin Billy can’t boil water without burning it?  Ask.  You can divide and conquer and not feel guilty.

Ease Off On the Alcohol

The most important thing I can advise to navigate those touchy moments is to ease off the alcohol.  Nothing adds fuel to a fire like one too many cups of egg nog.  Once mild cousin Mary can turn on you faster than a toupee in a wind storm.  If you want to enjoy your meal with a glass of wine, do, but keep an eye out for anyone who is hitting it too hard and could pose a problem.  Offer to mix their cocktails and “refresh” their drink for them – it’s the polite thing, right – then go really light on the alcohol.


Don’t focus on the stressful potential, we all have it, but you can mitigate it by setting boundaries, keeping the focus on family, and sharing the load.  Enjoy your holiday and your family and navigate that mine field like an expert.

Do you have an strategies you use to lessen stress at the holidays?

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  1. Great ideas to reduce stress, we all need this at this time of the year!

    1. Momleficent says:

      Absolutely! The holidays can he so exciting, but my goodness, they can be stressful!

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