Your Guide to Surviving Family Drama This Holiday Season


We’re coming up on the holidays, and you know what that means! I’m not talking about packed malls, decadent food, and the sweet crooning of Bing Crosby. I’m talking about a holiday tradition older than any of those festivities: Family drama.


In recent years I’ve realized that, despite what you might think, absolutely everyone has family drama. We don’t bring it up in casual conversations with our neighbors. We don’t talk about it while chatting with our co-workers at the coffee machine. We don’t post about it on Facebook (or perhaps some of us do, but it’s well established that such “vaguebooking” is considered in poor taste).

The Indy Moms Blog team came up with a few suggestions to help all you mamas survive whatever family drama the 2015 holiday season throws at you:

  1. Nix the political talk. We’re coming up on an election year and the temptation will inevitably arise, but as this hilarious SNL skit proves, talk of politics at the family dinner table rarely goes well, and sometimes our universal love for Adele is the only thing that will save us.
  2. Don’t take the bait. We’ve all been there: A family member makes an incendiary comment clearly intended to provoke you. Every cell of your body is itching to strike back and defend yourself, your partner, or your child. But just as engaging in an impassioned Facebook comment war will never truly change someone’s mind, family issues have never been resolved during a holiday get-together. Also, if you’ve had any alcohol, it’s especially important to keep your bait-refusing wits about you, as even one glass of wine has been known to have a truth-serum-like effect on yours truly.
  3. Vent to appropriate people. You didn’t take the bait. You took several blows and turned the other cheek. It’s important to decompress from all that restraint by venting to your husband or best friend. Also helpful? Typing out a long email explaining why you’re so frustrated by someone’s behavior, and then sending it to a friend instead of the intended recipient.
  4. Parent privately. Children get antsy and hyper during the holidays; maybe it’s all the sugar. If you have a family member who just LOVES to criticize your every parenting move, pull your child aside to handle his or her behavior in private. Protect yourself by not giving busybodies the opportunity to chime in on your parenting decisions.
  5. Don’t be the event director. Many of us love the holidays and begin the season with overly idealistic plans to squeeze every drop of holiday cheer from the month of December. (Check out Tanya’s post for the full rundown on Christmas mania for moms.) As much as you’d love to spend the holiday season enjoying picturesque outings with your extended family, stop and think about it: Will Christmas at the Zoo with your mother-in-law who can’t walk well and constantly complains really be so amazing? Will your dad who considers Mexican food too adventurous savor the nouveau chic Christmas dinner menu worthy of Bluebeard that you spent hours making? Or will planning these things and flawlessly executing them only to have your family members register a lousy 2.4 on the Appreciation Richter Scale leave you stress-eating your homemade cheese straws and threatening to check into a hotel? Show up to the event. Bring the food you are asked to bring. Clean up and be helpful. If you are hosting, keep the details simple and your expectations low. And when all else fails, just smile and nod.
  6. Set your boundaries and don’t budge. Can’t handle another year of your in-laws moving in for a week? Do you want to have Christmas in your own home with just your partner and kids? Is there a family member you simply can’t be around this year? I give you permission to set your boundaries firmly and stick with them. And don’t let anyone treat your boundaries as a starting point for negotiation.
  7. Serve those in need. This holiday season, I’m planning to spend some time volunteering at a local food bank. Helping others is a great way to get some serious perspective on your family drama problems. It’s hard to get tangled up in others’ pettiness when you’ve recently remembered just how lucky you are to have a roof over your head and food on the table.
  8. Find the holiday spirit on your own terms. My best friend and I have a tradition of getting together to exchange our Christmas gifts, listening to Christmas music, and enjoying “Christmas gin and tonics,” which are just regular gin and tonics with lime and cranberries to make them super festive. It’s always such a fun and cozy evening, and I’ve come to view it as an essential part of finding my holiday joyfulness.

Happy holidays, mamas. Godspeed, I feel your pain, and cheers!



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