While we all might desire the kind of holiday perfection we see in a TV movie or all over Pinterest, we will inevitably fall short. We live in the real world, after all, not in the movies or someone’s whitewashed home-crafting highlight reel.
It can be even harder to make holiday magic when you know you have a truly dysfunctional family. We turned to a few of our experts to find out how you can enjoy your holidays without letting the humbugs ruin your plans.
Ask the experts
“Holidays are tough,” says Connie Podesta, author of Life Would Be Easy If It Weren’t For Other People. “You’ve got high expectations, childhood memories we either want to duplicate or totally forget. And we have family members that literally drive us crazy, all smashed together at a table eating lots of carbs and sugar. It’s a recipe for disaster.”
And Pat Pearson, clinical psychotherapist and author of Stop Self-Sabotage, says it’s important to remember that, come holiday time, no one has changed. People on the whole stay who they are. So, what do you do?
1. Don’t expect to heal old wounds
Don’t use holidays as a time or place to repair old childhood wounds, Connie suggests. With difficult family, keep conversation simple. Don’t start a debate or get drawn into their drama. If you can’t answer without wanting to lash out, then just excuse yourself from the conversation and don’t come back. Don’t apologize, defend yourself or make excuses. Just hang near the people you like and that like you. Also, don’t forget to breathe.
If you love Thanksgiving but your traditions are getting a little tired, we’ve got you covered. With a little creative planning, you can make this year’s Thanksgiving the most festive and fun-filled yet.
1. Plan ahead for the day you want
It sounds simple, but your ideal holiday won’t materialize unless you make it happen. Maybe you envision a formal Thanksgiving dinner complete with centerpieces, nameplates and an elegant menu. If that’s your plan, spell it out ahead of time. If you want potluck, paper plates, jeans and football, plan that and let people know. Share your desires openly with family, i.e. “I hope you will stay all day so we can have lots of time together”—to create the day you want.
Related: 8 Easy Practices To Enhance Gratitude
2. Think about timing
It may sound like a no-brainer, but the timing of your dinner can impact the entire day. If you call your mealtime too early, you might get stressed with the-time crunch of meal prep (unless you’ve done most of it in the days before). Some like to eat later in order to enjoy appetizers and the anticipation of the holiday meal all day. Or maybe you have guests who are going to be glued to a particular football game during the day. Consider all of these variables and plan accordingly.
3. Relax your expectations
Without dwelling on it, acknowledge something will likely go wrong with your day, but that’s OK. A quirky uncle might say something, well, quirky. Someone might not show up who said they would. If you want to have the best possible holiday, roll with the punches. (Rest assured: No one’s Thanksgiving is perfect.)
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