Surviving the Relatives: Your Holiday Sanity Saver

There’s nothing quite like the holidays, right? It’s the time of year when we gather with loved ones, share good meals, exchange thoughtful gifts, and, of course, get ready for the annual tradition of “surviving the relatives”. Let’s face it – we love our families, but by the time the holiday season is over, we may be ready to wrap them up in leftover wrapping paper and label it “return to sender!” As we get older, things change, especially for the 50 and older crowd. If you’re looking for a few tips to navigate this minefield, keep reading.

1. The Early Bird Catches the Worm

Remember the good old days when you could sleep ‘til noon? Still thinking about it? Those days are long gone. Now, it’s probably all about waking up at the crack of dawn to start cooking. A good tip if you don’t know already is to prep the day before. That means all that chopping, baking, and marinating should already be done so all you’ll have to do is the “day of” stuff. It’s also good because you’ll avoid all the “helpful” suggestions from people wanting to contribute their recipes.

2. Lock and Load (Up on Snacks)

Having a bunch of snacks ready can help, especially when you have “hangry” (hungry+angry) relatives ready to add a dash of drama. It’s always best to have a variety of things – sugar-free for some, gluten-free for others, and of course, something deep-fried for everyone else.

3. Be Diplomatic

We’ve all had situations where that parent, uncle, or aunt starts telling embarrassing stories from the past that everyone has heard more than once. At the family gathering, diplomacy is your friend. Grinning and bearing it is the key here; laugh it off and keep it moving. Resist the urge to say you’ve heard it enough. Now is not the time.

4. The Art of Distraction

When the conversation starts to get heated on certain topics, there’s nothing better than a good distraction to put things back on track. Nothing changes the subject faster than getting everyone involved in a game, or turning on some music so people can dance. If all else fails, start telling funny stories about that parent, uncle, or aunt so the laugh can turn around on them.

5. Schedule Some Alone Time

Don’t forget to schedule time for yourself. These are usually chaotic times, so you must prepare for battle. If it’s taking a walk in the morning or having quiet time with coffee or tea, these peaceful moments will help keep your sanity.

6. The Unexpected +1 (or two)

What about Cousin Jay or Aunt Serena? Bless their hearts… every year they bring a new “special” someone to the party. One year, it was the nice lady from Instagram, and the next, it was the man from church who everyone knows is a womanizer. So, how do you deal with the unexpected plus one, or two?

First, always set an extra place or two at the table. This will save you from scrambling at the last minute, and it makes those unexpected visitors feel welcome – even if they insist on being extra throughout dinner. Next, have a ‘get to know you’ game ready. Nothing says welcome to our crazy family better than a game of ‘Two Truths and a Lie.’ Get ready for some unbelievable truths!

If all else fails, embrace the golden rule, and melt into the madness. Think about it – your family will never run out of funny stories to tell after the holidays, and it wouldn’t be a fun and crazy holiday without a few surprises. With preparation, participation, and laughter, you can get through it, because no matter who shows up for dinner, you’re not the one explaining why your date has on a tuxedo and everyone else is in shorts.

7. The Culinary Misadventures of Aunt Sue

Everyone has an Aunt Sue. You know, the relative that means well but can’t cook to save her life? Yes, that one! The one that insists on bringing one of her “famous” recipes to the holiday dinner that ends up being legendary (and not in a good way).

The best way to circumvent this is to assign Aunt Sue a safe dish before the food list comes in. There are certain things you just can’t mess up. Having her bring dip for the chips, buying a turkey or ham that’s already prepared, or putting her in charge of the ice cream sundae station should be harmless (hopefully). How much damage can she do with those?

Now, for those times when she goes rogue and decides to bring her own dish anyway, you need a backup plan. Start your damage control early. Whether it’s putting the dish in the refrigerator or conveniently “forgetting” to put it out, to hiding it in the pantry, you must be ready.

If nothing else, this sharpens your strategic thinking and planning skills, helping everyone avoid frequent trips to the bathroom. Those are the things that create unforgettable (and funny) holiday memories.

8. The Ex-Files: Navigating the Awkward Holiday Waters

Have you ever been in a situation where the ex-spouse of a family member is still considered family and shows up for everything? When you have a situation like that, it’s awkward, but the classic case of ‘two exes, one dinner table’ is always interesting.

When you know what’s coming, you can get prepared. These situations can be hilarious or one that requires walking on eggshells. If the family member and ex both bring new people, laugh it off and create an atmosphere where family comes first. After all, isn’t unpredictability one of the reasons why holidays are so memorable? With the right balance, it can be managed.

Key Takeaways 

Getting through the different holiday dinners with family can feel like you’re running a marathon with some nasty food at the end of your spoon. Now that you have a few scenarios to consider, you’re well-equipped to keep your sanity intact. Always remember:

  • Preparation is Key
  • Whether you’re planning and prepping in advance to avoid those “helpful” suggestions, unwanted dishes, or setting an extra place or two, you can’t go wrong.
  • Distraction is an Art
  • Use distraction to stop potential tension. Whether it’s starting to play a game or a dance contest, these little things can save the day.
  • Embrace the Madness
    Whether you have unexpected guests or a case of the exes, be ready for plenty of surprises. The holidays were made for them, and you’ll have a bunch of hilarious stories for later.
  • Wrap yourself in Humor
  • Humor is your friend, so keep it close. When things get chaotic, start laughing. Even if it doesn’t seem funny now, you’ll be laughing when remembering it the next year.
  • Remember to Relax
  • When you’re relaxed, everyone else will have a sense of calm. Take time for yourself.

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