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Holiday Survival Guide: Coping with the In-Laws

Guest Writer: Andres Duran, LMHC

The holidays are upon us and ‘tis the season for increased contact with the in-laws.  Some people are blessed with wonderful in-laws who they get along with swimmingly.  Others are not quite so lucky.  For some people, the in-laws are a source of dread and distress.  Whether it’s being forced to sit across from a know-it-all brother-in-law, preparing a meal with a perfectionist mother-in-law, or shopping with a persistently disapproving father-in-law most people know what it’s like to have a less than perfect relationship with their in-laws.  So below are some tips on how to survive your holiday quality time with the intense in-laws in your life…or any other intense family members to may have.

Family All Together At Christmas Dinner

1.  Take some time to sit with your partner before the in-laws arrive.  Chose a time and a place where you are both calm and in a mood to talk constructively.  As a couple, sit down and express your perceptions and concerns using “I” statements (I feel _______ when your father does __________).   Work hard at not being reactive or defensive.  Try to work together to develop a realistic solution that works for both of you.

 2.   Imagine you are observing your family as though you were a commentator on a discovery channel documentary.  This will help you develop a detached perspective from whatever intense family dynamics might be playing out.

 3.   If you find something that someone is saying is annoying you imagine that persons voice as that of a comical character like Peter Griffin or Homer Simpson.  This will break the mental tension and provide you with a chance to inwardly chuckle.

 4.   If all else fails take a time out.  Politely excuse yourself and find a moment to give yourself a break.  Take some deep breaths, get some fresh air, take a quick walk, or have a glass of water in order to help calm yourself down.

Use these pro tips to help you get through the rough patches and remember to focus on the positive interactions you are having with your family this holiday season.   Who knows maybe you’ll find you really enjoyed the time you had with your in-laws and won’t have a panic attack when your partner suggests they stay another week.

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