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Surviving Thanksgiving with Multiple Families, In-Laws, and Divorced Parents
Tips for Surviving Holiday Gatherings
Most families aren't cookie cutter perfect anymore. There are divorced parents, in-laws, step-siblings, and many other types of blended families.
All of these families mean that more and more people have many visits that they have to cram into their schedules. Juggling dinners and get togethers at several houses can be stressful. Added to the usual holiday hurrying and rush is the difficulty of trying to fit everyone in on one day.
Worry no more. Keep reading for tips and ideas to help you balance all of the families you are a part of and ease your holiday burden.
Tips for Holidays with Multiple Families
Many of us have two, three, or even more places and families that we have to visit during the holidays. Divorced parents' homes, in-laws, extended family, friends, coworkers, and other people and organizations have separate dinners and functions that we are obligated to attend. Here are some tips to help you manage all of the holiday madness.
- Try to plan as early as possible to avoid overlaps. Talk with everyone that you must visit and get a firm schedule of when everyone will be having their event. Making a schedule and letting everyone know what you will be doing will help cut down on hurt feelings and avoid misunderstandings.
- Conflicting times are going to be inevitable. You may have to pick one dinner over another. Try to make up for it by scheduling something with that person later in the weekend or giving them priority for the next holiday. You probably won't be able to please everyone, so just do your best to accommodate who you can.
- Try to combine as many of the gatherings as possible. If everyone gets along, eat together instead of having several smaller gatherings. For instance, invite your in-laws to your mother's dinner. It is a day for togetherness.
- Make it a holiday weekend, not just one day. Is it really so important that you gather just on Thursday? If more people can make it on Friday or Saturday postpone the dinner. Compromise on the day so that the ones you love can be together.
- Have people come to you instead of going to them. If it is difficult for you to go out visiting because of health, kids, or whatever, host the event. Have everyone come to visit you.
- If you are traveling out of town, split the time with each place. Stay with one parent or family for a set period. Don't try to flip back and forth. Consider booking a hotel. Or compromise by staying with one family at Thanksgiving and the other at Christmas or your next visit to avoid having to run around so much.
- The whole family doesn't have to attend every event. It is okay to split up if there are several events to attend. If one event is more important to one member of the family, go separate ways for a while. Just avoid being away from each other for the whole holiday. Meet back up later to enjoy time together.
- Coordinate with siblings and other family members. Make sure that everyone will be in the same place at the same time. That way one sibling isn't at Mom's while the other is at Dad's.
- Start new traditions. Setting the same time for a gathering every year will help cut down on future conflict. If the in-laws are always at lunchtime on Thursdays, Mom's house is Thursday evening, and Dad's is on Friday, for example, everyone will always know how to plan and coordinate the rest of their holiday weekend.
- Alternate holidays with each family. Compromise by having Thanksgiving at one house and then Christmas with the other family. Then flip the following year.
- Express to everyone that you want to spend time with them at the holiday. Make sure everyone knows they are important, but understands that you have other important people in your life as well. Tell them you want to see them, it might have to be a different time or a short visit.
- Schedule time for your own family traditions. Don't neglect the things you want to do with your own smaller family circle because you are too busy running around to everything else. Make traditions with your immediate family if you have kids. It doesn't have to be elaborate.
- Remember that emotions will be high around the holidays. Work together to figure out the best solution. Try not to be hurtful to each other. Take things in stride and don't take conflicts personally. If you can't make an event or someone you love can't be there, don't be upset about it. Make time when schedules aren't so hectic. Remember the true purpose of the season and keep in mind that you love each other.
- Enjoy the day. Don't run yourself so ragged that you are too tired to enjoy the holiday. Remember the meaning of the day. Have fun, even if it means skipping an unnecessary event.
Add some silly fun to lighten the mood. Laughter is the best medicine for stress. Keep a smile on everyone's face and they'll forget to be grumpy with each other.
This turkey will get some giggles and maybe some gobbles, too.
"There is no ideal Christmas; only the one Christmas you decide to make as a reflection of your values, desires, affections, traditions."
- Bill McKibben
In-Laws and the Holidays
Tips on how to survive visits with your in-laws during the holidays.
- Remember that these people are important to your spouse. They are your spouse's family. If you have conflict with your in-laws, don't make your spouse have to pick sides. Try to work it out without drawing lines and putting your spouse in the middle.
- Prepare in advance for bothersome comments. If there are always annoying questions and comments from your in-laws, think of a response ahead of time. That way you aren't flustered when you are asked. This will cut down on the tension and stress of the event.
- Hold your tongue. If one of your in-laws says something that upsets you, don't turn it into an argument. Just smile and let it go. If there is one person in the family who bothers you in particular, avoid that person. That way you don't ruin the dinner with conflict. If it is a serious problem, address it after the gathering in private.
- The visit is just temporary. You only have to be together for a short time. Make the best of it during the holiday. Things will be back to normal soon. Anyone can get along in short doses.
- Accept your in-laws as they are. Every family is different and has their own quirks. Don't expect it to be like your own family meals. Adapt and become part of this new family as well as your own.
Guide for Dealing with the In-Laws
A humorous look at in-laws and how to handle them.
"The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other's life. Rarely do members of one family grow up under the same roof."
- Richard Bach
Tips for Holidays with Divorced Parents
- Don't make comparisons. Each of your parents is different. Don't expect them to do things the same as each other or the same as it was in the past. Accept them for who they are and enjoy the holiday in a different way with each of them.
- Don't get in the middle. If there is still conflict between your parents, stay out of it. Don't take sides. Let them know that you love them both and want to spend time with both of them. If you are a divorced parent, don't put the kids in the middle.
- Accept step-family members. Welcome them into family gatherings and treat them as part of the family. Don't give better presents to your biological family. This will only create resentments.
- Don't expect them to sit around waiting for you. Your parents still have a life outside of you. If you are visiting the other parent or doing something else, don't assume that your parent will be sitting at home doing nothing. Don't get your feelings hurt if your parent does something without you. You won't be able to be a part of everything in both parents lives. Pick the most important things to be a part of accept missing out on a few events.
- Be flexible. Starting new traditions can avoid conflicts. Having Thanksgiving dinners on Fridays and opening Christmas presents on Christmas eve can be fun and cut down on fights over who gets the kids on the holidays. If nothing else, alternate holidays. One parent can have the kids on Thanksgiving, the other on Christmas day. Then switch the following year.
Guides for Handling Divorced Parents
"Nothing purchased can come close to the renewed sense of gratitude for having family and friends."
- Courtland Milloy
Surving the Holidays with Your Family
Hints and tips to keep your holidays joyous.
Family Obligations Poll
How big is your family? How many times do you get to stuff yourself with food?
How many different gatherings do you attend on the holidays?
Tips for Avoiding Holiday Conflicts
- Meet someplace neutral. If conflicts happen at gatherings, don't meet at the home of any of the people involved. Rent a dining hall or meeting place for the dinner. Or go to someone else's house who gets along with everyone.
- Try to avoid arguments. If you know there are usual arguments that come up during the holidays, prepare in advance to try to keep them from happening. For instance, seat feuding relatives at opposite ends of the table.
- Split the cooking duties. Assign everyone a dish, so one person doesn't end up cooking it all. This will keep cost down for the host as well.
- Assign chores ahead of time. Decide who will be on table setting duty, dish duty, trash duty, and whatever else is necessary before the day arrives to avoid squabbles over who will do what. Paper plates, cups, and silverware can cut down on the amount of dishes. One meal of throw away products isn't too bad for the environment.
- Think about eating out or getting a caterer. This will cut down on the hassle of cooking and cleaning. It can also be a time saver since there is little prep time involved. That can eliminate a big chunk of holiday stress.
- Defuse potential problems. If you see potential meltdowns happening, distract everyone with a funny story or pull out cute photos. Try to lighten the mood. Encourage respect and keep a lid on disharmony.
"Thanksgiving was never meant to be shut up in a single day."
- Robert Caspar Lintner
My Experience with Multiple Families
I have divorced parents, step-parents, a large extended family, and, now that I am married, I have in-laws as well. Big families can be fun, but cramming in time with everyone at the holidays runs me ragged. My sister is married now, too. We have different approaches to handling the holiday hubbub with our ever increasing families.
For Thanksgiving, we usually eat at the in-laws for one meal on Thursday and my mom for the other meal. Then we eat with my dad on Friday. The extended family is on Saturday.
My sister alternates visits with extended family every year. At Thanksgiving she goes to her husband's extended family gathering, and then Christmas with ours. Then they flip the next year. She doesn't like to travel much, so this works for her.
Christmas gets more chaotic. My husband and I celebrate our Christmas together on the 24th. Then Christmas at his parents is Christmas morning. We have a Christmas with my mom and dad whenever everyone can get together. Sometimes it is Christmas eve. Sometimes it is the 26th or 27th. Extended family events usually happen the weekend after Christmas. As long as we get together and celebrate, it doesn't matter the exact date on the calendar.
My biggest hassle is trying to coordinate when everything will happen. That way two gathering aren't happening at the same time. Everyone is usually flexible about scheduling. Occasionally my husband and I might miss an extended family gathering or something else. But it usually all works out well.
The important thing is that we are grateful to have so many people who care about us. We aren't short on support.
Big families are good for one thing. Lots of presents!
Destress with Relaxing Music
Play this relaxing music as you are checking off your holiday to do list. It will keep you from pulling your hair out.
Get Organized for Christmas - Freebies!
Tons of free downloads and printables to help smooth out your holiday season.
- Organized Christmas: Simplify Your Holidays and Celebrate The Season
Get ready for the holiday season! Christmas organizing plans, free printable holiday planner, holiday crafts, gifts, recipes and gifts in a jar!
"As we struggle with shopping lists and invitations, compounded by December's bad weather, it is good to be reminded that there are people in our lives who are worth this aggravation, and people to whom we are worth the same."
- Donald E. Westlake
Lens of the Day!
November 22, 2011
Wow! This lens was chosen for LotD.
Thank you Squidoo!