It is that time of year again. It is time to pack the car with kids, cats, Christmas gifts, and “Off to Grandmother’s house we go!”
Spending the holidays with extended family can be the greatest, but it also can bring on a unique type of stress. In addition to the millionth cookie drive, the unwrapped gifts, and the fancy “holiday anxiety,” sharing this season with extended family can be a breeze with a few hip tips.
How can you prepare for battle? Well, here is my personal “field guide” for spending the holidays with extended family.
Have the opening conversation
Will you be traveling to see family? Or, will they be traveling to you. Discuss possible options and stick to the plan (as much as humanly possible). Last minute travel plans can cause undue stress and can really put a damper on the upcoming time to spend together.
Sit down with your spouse (or your favorite cup of coffee, if you are flying solo) and get a plan in place. Decide when family will arrive, or when you will head out. Arrange comfortable lodgings and make a list of the things that you will need. Feeling prepared will curb some of that last-minute holiday stress.
Set a budget and determine a spending limit
If you will have to travel, talk with your spouse about how much the trip will cost. Also, predetermining a gift budget will help avoid over the top spending or big credit card bills. Deciding how much you will spend on gifts beforehand, and together with your family, will help you manage expectations for everyone.
Do you have that “one” family member? You know the one… passive aggressive comments or incessant sugar policing? Set some boundaries and stick with them. Family gatherings do not have to be awkward and uncomfortable forever. Decide what is okay, and what is not. Communicate when boundaries are crossed and stand by them.
Adding some new traditions to a family gathering can be a great opportunity to make memories. Try an ornament swap or a “White Elephant” gift game. Maybe add a new recipe to the mix or get adventurous by sight-seeing around town together.
Have a secret Santa
A little bit of fun can go a long way. Add in a secret Santa gift swap. Draw names and “anonymously” gift a family with a sweet surprise. (Just a tip. When you draw names, write a small list of the recipient’s favorite things on the back of the paper that holds the name.)
Host a holiday themed game night
Nothing brings family together like a good ol’ fashioned board game. Unless your family is uber competitive, a game night can be a great way to unwind and refresh. Bust out the Monopoly, grab some snacks, and have a blast!
Open a gift early
One of our favorite family traditions is to open a gift on Christmas Eve. We actually open two… We open one that contains our Christmas jammies and the other is one that we pick from the pack. This gives the kids a sweet surprise and slips a moment of joy in between the hustle and bustle.
Sharing meals together can be great, but cooking them together is where it is at. Grab an apron, snag a kid or two, and hop in the kitchen. Plus, once you see that your kids can work their way around a kitchen, you might get a little extra help all year.
Why not spend some time serving together as a family? Take some time and schedule in a family opportunity to give back. Serve dinner at a homeless shelter, donate to a food bank, host a coat drive, or find other ways to share some joy this season.
Family time doesn’t have to be a “fail,” dinner doesn’t have to be a disaster, and the holiday “hectic” doesn’t have to win the day. One of my favorite sayings is “Plan your work and work your plan.” Plan to spend some time together, line up a few new ideas, and enjoy a holiday well spent.