How to Survive The Holidays When Daily Life Interferes
An Etiquette Expert De-Stresses Your Holidays
I remember, not too many years ago, the sweetness of the holidays. Family gathers. Friends meet over cookies and conversation. Children excited about the magic of the season. Where did the sweetness go? Is it lost with that matching sock? It went into the dryer and now it’s gone—same as the holiday spirit.
Is it that we stress to the point of exhaustion? We pack our days with longer work hours, family issues and obligations beyond our household. It’s no wonder there is a lack of reaching out to others and the pure joy of sharing. Nevertheless, we just may be able to get some of that back. How?
As an etiquette consultant, I receive countless questions, especially around the holidays.
What follows are some of the most asked questions along with my answers. Read along, as my solutions to these situations just might help you bring the “Ho, ho, ho” back into your day.
How do we tactfully manage holiday time with both "your family" and your "in-laws"?
When we marry, we aren’t just hitching our wagon to one other. We are coupling two—or perhaps more—wagon trains. With the multiple parents, grandparents, exes and stepchildren, our family can more than triple with two little words, “I do.” During the holidays, this can make our idea of family sharing a bit tricky.
We don’t always have the best relationship with our family, whether those members are by birth or marriage. Nevertheless, they are all family now. That said, barring any abusive members, it’s best to try to fit all of them into our schedules during the holidays. For those very large, multiple parent families, it may be best to visit with each side before the main holiday we celebrate and spend the exact day with just the immediate family. In this way, no one should feel less important.
How do I politely decline a family holiday-party invitation due to feeling uncomfortable around Dad’s new girlfriend?
This is a tricky situation, especially if your parents are recently divorced or separated—feelings might be a bit raw. I would assume other guests might feel uncomfortable as well. However, as it is in most situations, it may be best to try to take yourself out of the equation. Try to consider that your father has to live his own life and not one others want him to live. His girlfriend is part of that choice. This isn’t to say that you must like her right away. Your feelings are valid, so you don’t have to try to rush them.
If this is not a situation you want to experience right now, there’s nothing wrong in saying so. You could simply state that you need more time to adjust to the new family paradigm.
Since emotions tend to run high this time of year, how can I appropriately approach those tough conversations?
Most often, it’s best to have those sensitive conversations in a calm, quiet, private place. Depending on the person, coffee, tea and some sort of chocolate helps too. In any case, before beginning that deep conversation, consider if it can wait until after the holidays.
For example, say you want to quit your job. In this situation, it’s best to wait. Quitting your job may stress the budget, which adds additional stress to your relationship--typically, we spend more money this time of year. After the holidays, pour the libation of choice in a private setting and have your quite discussion. Chocolate is optional.
My best friend doesn’t celebrate Christmas and always feels left out. What can I do?
Not everyone one celebrates Christmas, but it doesn’t mean that we can’t include him or her in some of the traditional elements. Avoiding the awkwardness of what to do about gifts, invite your friend for the Christmas meal. Perhaps include him or her in a Christmas Eve gathering. There are so many ways we can all come together to celebrate without religion entering into the equation.
After losing her husband two months ago, my daughter is grief stricken. What can I do to help her this time of year?
As she is bombarded with the traditional elements of the season they once shared, her grief may deepen. Therefore, try to keep her busy and out of the house. Invite her over often. Allow her to cry and to talk about her grief as she feels the need. Most important, just be available.
The bottom line.
If we consider how others might feel in the circumstance in question, most likely we will do the right thing. Slow down. Listen. Spend time with those with whom you care. Enjoy this magical holiday season!