If, for you, the holidays are not reminiscent of sugar plum fairies and white angels in a background of joyful cheer, keep reading. For some, the holidays are about dreaded family gatherings, an ugly sweater dress code, lousy gift exchanges and uncomfortable questions from relatives. Here are 4 common difficult scenarios and game plans of how to cope with them, as an alternative to overdosing on spiked eggnog.
The long car ride. Just getting to the event can be a nightmare, especially if it’s a long journey, in serious traffic and you’re packed in the car with a bunch of whiney brats. Even more, if the whiney brat is your parent, an in-law, a sibling, or any other adult who out-whines the passengers still riding in booster seats. This kind of chaos can be diffused by audio entertainment throughout the journey to drown out the complainers. Pick something everyone will tolerate. It doesn’t matter if it’s Jingle Bells, Beethoven’s last symphony, or Howard Stern’s radio show, just keep it playing!
Rude questions about procreation or divorce. If you’re single or childless, you might be forced to tolerate questions from meddling relatives about when you plan to tie the knot or get knocked up already – constant reminders of ticking clocks. If you happen to be going through a divorce, the barrage of unsavory comments might be more unsettling than Grandma’s flan. To cope with these awkward moments, have stock answers ready and practiced. Answer questions with, “I don’t know. Time to refill my eggnog.” You can also respond to unsolicited comments with “Thanks for sharing your point of view.” As a final note, make sure you know where all bathrooms, exits and adult beverage stations are located.
The awkward gift exchange. What do you do when every year, your older brother gives you the complimentary trinket that comes with the purchase of his cologne and aftershave? Continue to play dumb, and just downsize your spending on the stingy folks. Always do what you feel is right, regardless of what others do. There is no need to become a crazed shopper who tries to find the perfect gift for everyone you know. If holiday shopping stresses you out, keep it simple.
Home Alone. If you are spending the holidays alone, there are ways to distract yourself from feeling lonely. If you can afford it, take a trip or participate in an organized activity, preferably ones that allow you to mix with other people, doing something of interest. It helps to keep in mind that you are probably not the only one feeling lonely at this time of year. If you stay local, reach out to others who might be separated from family and either create your own tradition or join theirs. Oftentimes, a holiday spent with random stragglers is more fun anyway.
There is no rule that says you have to love the Holidays. Don’t make a big deal out of it. The key is to reduce your expectations and remove some of the pressure. If you’re not having the time of your life, try to keep it in perspective.
Written by Carla Litto, Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy and Relationup Advisor.