10 Tips for surviving family celebrations

Our loved ones are often one of the biggest sources of love and happiness in our lives, and while family celebrations are traditionally happy occasions, having your entire extended family under one roof can bring with it a host of awkward situations we’d rather avoid. Fortunately, there are a number of ways we can dodge the personal questions about our love life and instead focus on how lucky we are to be surrounded by great food and good company.

1. Go in with a good attitude

Even though Aunty Alice is almost definitely going to ask us if we’re ‘still single’, we should give her the benefit of the doubt and just pretend for a moment that she won’t. That way we don’t automatically go into the day on the defensive but are instead giving ourselves a chance to enjoy the event.

2. But know what to expect

We shouldn’t put unrealistic expectations on our family, like assuming Cousin Kate won’t criticise our outfit, even though she’s done it at every Christmas for the past decade. While it would be a refreshing change for some family members to adjust their behaviour, we can’t expect them to change, and we’ll just end up being disappointed if we do.

3. Keep tricky topics off the table

Things like politics and religion can quickly turn a casual catch up into a heated debate. Often at family events there are a broad spectrum of ages, religions and political views in the room, so bringing up these sorts of topics can cause tension. Similarly, asking personal questions may seem harmless at the time but could in fact strike a nerve. So we should be careful when broaching topics that could be potentially sensitive for other family members so as to avoid creating awkward situations ourselves.

4. Control your reaction

Remember that while we can’t control the words and actions being said and done around us at family events, the one thing we can control is our reaction. An awkward conversation doesn’t have to take a negative turn unless we let it. So if we keep our replies light and polite, theirs shouldn’t be any different. If Aunt Alice keeps making snarky comments about what we’re wearing, we simply excuse ourself and walk away.

5. Take it easy on the wine

Often we’re not our best selves when we drink, especially when we drink a lot. We might become argumentative and say things we’ll regret the next day. A surefire way of avoiding awkward family encounters is by having a glass of wine or two and then sticking to the lemonades for the rest of the event.

6. Be active and distracted

It’s harder to be the target of personal questions and argumentative conversations if we’re busy doing something that requires our concentration. This includes doing things like washing the dishes, clearing the table, playing a game or simply going for a walk. If we don’t have the attention to give to awkward situations, they’re less likely to occur.

7. Be tolerant

Sometimes we could be the ones asking the insensitive questions or saying things that irritate others, and we might not be aware of it. In order to avoid this, we should be conscious of cutting people slack, not reacting rashly to things they say or do, and giving them the benefit of the doubt that the way they’re behaving comes from a good place.

8. Take a break if needed

If the situation becomes too much and we can’t trust that we can control our reactions, the best thing we can do is step away for a moment and think about the things that make us happy. Read a funny text from a friend, watch a cute video about baby animals or read a chapter of a book you love.

9. Regroup on the spot

If we can’t physically leave an awkward situation, we can instead take a moment to focus on our breathing. By taking just five deep breaths, we can reduce our stress and anxiety there on the spot. It won’t stop Granny asking us why we don’t have children, but it can stop us reacting badly to it.

10. Remember what you’re grateful for

Often at family events we forget how lucky we are, merely because something Uncle Steve said brushed us up the wrong way. When this happens, a great thing to get in the habit of doing is being grateful. We can be grateful that we had a delicious meal, that we’re in good health and that we’re surrounded by people who love us. This will minimise any anxiety we may be feeling and put as in a better frame of mind for tackling the rest of the day.