The holiday season is a wonderful time for catching up with family. You might even stay with them or they may stay with you.
This can be a welcome visit, especially if it is your own family. But what about when it’s your partner’s family? Is it fun or a chore? An enjoyable time or a time fraught with passive-aggressive tactics and criticism?
Holidays with in-laws can be challenging
Whether you are visiting your in-laws or they are coming to you, holiday season can be a tough time. The visit might involve significant travel and this can mean a longer stay, adding to the challenge.
While not all of use find our in-laws hostile or unwelcoming, there can still be challenges in accepting the differences in how other families do things. Maybe your partner “changes” when their parents are around. Perhaps it is just difficult to share space at close quarters.
If you’re a little on edge about spending time with your partner’s family (or even dreading the experience), there are some things that can make the holidays easier and more enjoyable.
8 top tips for surviving in-laws in holiday season
- Outings: Plan some things to do so that you are all out of the house and busy. Does your family all enjoy a type of music? Arrange to go to a concert. Perhaps your in-laws can attend your child’s end-of-year play or recital. Alternatively, plan a meal at a favourite restaurant.
- Planned Meals: Having a meal plan can take out some of the stress of deciding what to eat each evening. It will give your visitors a chance to offer suggestions, take you out for a meal, or even cook for you. If you are the guest, find out when might be a good night for you to contribute to meals in some way.
- Time Apart: My parents always say that guests are like a bag of prawns – after three days they are awful! It is a joke but there is certainly some truth to the time frame. Lengthy visits might be unavoidable, so make sure that you have some time apart, whether you are the guest or the host. This will help keep time together fresh and of greater quality.
- Allow for Routines: No matter who is staying with my family, I stick to my daily dog walk and Pilates classes. This means I get some time out, but it also means I still keep to my own values about being a pet owner and about health. If you are the guest, encourage your hosts to keep to their daily rituals and assure them that you will be fine whilst they are busy.
Okay, so these seem pretty simple. But what about more difficult in-law relationships? Do you have a hyper-critical mother-in-law or a know-all father-in-law? Is someone in your partner’s family racist?
We are all very different from one another, and accepting these differences is more difficult when we are in close quarters for a period of time.
To manage the less-smooth relationships, try these tips:
- Stay Hydrated: Drinking plenty of water means you can handle more stressors and therefore you will be more tolerant of others.
- Avoid Too Much Alcohol: Alcohol is a disinhibitor. This means it removes your judgement ability. You may be more reactive than when you are sober, and more likely to get into a tussle.
- Remember Your Values: Think about what kind of person you want to be. How would you like people to describe you? Use this as your guide when dealing with criticism or rudeness from your partner’s family. This way, you can avoid an awful situation such as an argument, and will feel good for how you behaved (even if the other person was appalling). Essentially, walk the high road and let comments/judgements/opinions pass.
- Establish Boundaries: If you don’t want Granddad offering your teenage son a beer (“It’s good for him”) (!), if your partner’s sister likes to give your toddler loads of lollies (“Because it is funny to watch them get hyperactive”) (!), then ask your partner to have a quiet word with their family member to convey that message. Head potential problems off early and you can avoid a lot of distress later. It’s likely your in-laws will know the message comes from you, but it is best delivered by “one of their own”. Then they are more likely to take it seriously, rather than dismissing it as one of your “oddities”.
It’s imperative that you feel that your partner has your back when you are with their family. Be sure to have a conversation with your partner well in advance of any visit to address any concerns you have.
Surviving in-laws in holiday season comes down to preparation, communication, patience, compassion and forgiveness. A sense of humour helps things along too.
What are your tips for surviving a visit from the in-laws during holiday season?