Yesterday I appeared on WKYC channel 3’s morning show, “Good Company,” to talk about how to handle the stress of relative-related tension during the holidays. Below are some tips I gave on the air:
1. Be proactive! Send a card to family members a couple of weeks prior to their arrival, saying how much you look forward to spending time with them. This sets a positive tone before they arrive.
2. If family members are staying with you for the holidays, leave some flowers in their room, along with a card that welcomes them to your home.
3. If you are going to a family member’s home with whom you’ve had tension in the past and have difficulty being around, let them know a week in advance exactly how much time you’ll be able to spend with them. Limit your time, if being with these relatives is that difficult. Spend perhaps two hours rather than five with them, but let them know your schedule at least a week ahead of time.
4. If you and your mate are in a stressful situation in someone else’s home, agree on a “code gesture” you will use to let each other know you want to leave immediately. Make it a small, subtle gesture, but one that is clear to each other.
5. If you have a houseful of family for dinner and things get tense, have planned to see a movie at a certain time after the meal. Let everyone know they are welcome to join you, but that you will be leaving at a particular time to go see the movie. This is a great way to clear your home and remove yourself from family stress. Of course, let everyone know the movie plans ahead of time.
6. If the topic of politics or religion comes up and causes issues, use the phrase, “Let’s agree to disagree,” then change the subject.