- Expect the intensity of holiday togetherness to breed some irritability, and take it in stride.
- Give yourself and everyone else permission to feel less than perfect. Recognize that the holiday isn’t “ruined” just because someone gets angry or upset; your family is simply doing what it’s always done — acting like your family.
- Recognize that no one can live up to our expectations for the Holiday. Most of us carry around a heavily romanticized picture of the holiday and feel we must relentlessly convey warmth, brightness and good feelings. It’s just not possible without creating unbearable tension.
- Be forewarned that it is the nature of family rituals to try to stuff you back into old family roles; you don’t have to be the fixer-upper or kid sister if you don’t want to.
- Be open, and respond positively to change in other family members.
- Plan for the difficult moments. Propose a family outing for the holiday afternoon slump. Keep lots of board games handy.
- Enlist the help of others if you are the one in charge of organizing the holiday reunion. Well in advance, politely inform other family members that you want their help with meal preparation, setup or cleanup, and assign specific tasks to specific people. Everyone will enjoy the occasion more.
- Try to be flexible about the way things are done. Build some change into family rituals, otherwise they will ossify and eventually turn participants off. People grow and change; so should rituals.
- Create new rituals in newly blended, divorced or grieving families – adopting elements that have shared meaning for all current members.
- Recognize how difficult the holidays are for children of divorced or grieving families. Several adults are often competing for the children’s time and affection and they know that someone they love will inevitably suffer. Smooth their way. It’s not their responsibility to make you feel better.
- Congratulate the cook. So what if the turkey is too dry. At least it’s on the table.
- Buy into the holiday promise of a perfect family. There’s no such thing — and never was.
- Expect the holidays to serve as quality time for relationships. You can’t repair all damage and pay all debts in a day or two. You can, however, use the holidays to make meaningful contact.
- Plan family transformations. This is not the time to confront Uncle Ed about his drinking or to force Mom to finally open up.
- Try to over-control everyone’s interactions in order to put a lid on conflict and clashes. And don’t get upset with anyone else for getting upset.-Taken in part from an old Psychology Today article